Welding, hair dressing, tailoring, egg incubation and maize milling are just some of the businesses which are set to take advantage of a new solar mini-grid, set up by renewable energy company MeshPower in Gitaraga village, Bugesera District in Eastern Rwanda. The 4 Kw AC/DC mini-grid will bring clean energy to 196 households and 15 businesses, improving living standards and offering new economic opportunities for the village.
As part of the Scaling up Off Grid Energy in Rwanda (SOGER) programme, Energy 4 Impact is partnering with MeshPower to build demand for the electricity and engage potential users. Energy 4 Impact is also sharing its expertise with MeshPower on technical and transaction services, including financing, system design and customs and tariff modeling, to enable the renewable energy firm to optimise its business model.
“Developers of small mini-grids are more likely to recover their costs and remain profitable if they power small industries and businesses, as well as households,” says Victor Hakuzwumuremyi SOGER Programme Manager at Energy 4 Impact.
“We are working with MeshPower to promote the opportunities the mini-grid offers to increase productivity and profitability for existing – as well as start-up – businesses and services such as welding, tailoring, phone charging, and food and drinks refrigeration.”
Energy 4 Impact is helping the entrepreneurs see how electricity can cut costs and enable growth and diversification. The organisation is also supporting them to identify appropriate electrical appliances and facilitate access to capital to acquire the equipment. Energy 4 Impact’s business mentors are assisting with management skills such as record keeping, marketing and customer care, and training them in appliance use and health and safety standards.
“By powering homes, we enable villagers to improve their standard of living. By powering businesses and productive enterprises, we enable economic development by generating employment and revenue,” says Julie Roberts, Project Manager at MeshPower. “I’m proud that we are playing a part in supporting the Rwandan government’s aim of achieving universal electricity coverage by 2024.”
SOGER aims to help private sector companies deliver renewable energy to around 77,000 people in poor rural areas and create 7,000 jobs. It is funded by Sida, a Swedish government agency working to reduce poverty.