Rwanda is set to become the first country in east Africa with a utility-scale solar plant after a $24m deal was signed to build the scheme outside Kigali, the capital.
The 8.5 megawatt solar photovoltaic project is the brainchild of American-Israeli green entrepreneur Yosef Abramowitz, a pioneer of Israel’s solar industry. It is expected to boost Rwanda’s electricity supply by 8 per cent once it starts operating this year. Mr Abramowitz, chief executive of the Energiya Global Capital group that provided seed capital for the project, said he hoped it would prove that commercially viable solar plants can be built throughout Africa, where 550m people lack access to electricity. “The human race bears a moral and practical imperative to provide power for all, while also transitioning from burning fossil fuels to harnessing renewables,” he said.
“It will be the first in a series of large fields we are planning in the coming 24 months.” The Rwandan solar plant is being financed by a consortium of equity investors and debt providers including Dutch development bank FMO and Norwegian development body Norfund. It also received grants from bodies funded by governments including the UK and US.
The plant’s electricity will be fed into the national grid under a 25-year power purchase agreement with the Rwanda Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority.The Rwandan government is aiming to connect half its population of 11m people to electricity by 2017. It says access to power has increased from 6 per cent of the population in 2008 to 16 per cent in 2012. A large share of Rwanda’s electricity comes from hydropower schemes but like many African countries it also relies heavily on diesel generation.The plant will be located 60km from Kigali on land belonging to a village for young people orphaned during and after the 1994 Rwandan genocide.The scheme’s developer is Gigawatt Global, a Dutch company, of which Mr Abramowitz is president. Energiya Global is an Israeli affiliate of Gigawatt Global.