Rwanda sets record again – Largest Solar Project in East Africa

A family that now uses Ignite Power Home System instead of kerosene to light their house

Rwanda has done it again; Ignite Power is the largest solar financing company in Rwanda. Rwanda citizens now have the most Affordable Solar Home Systems in Africa, 30% more affordable than Kenya, 40-70% more affordable than any comparable product in Rwanda.

IGNITE POWER has the fastest scale up in Africa with a connection rate of close to 250 homes (1,500 people) per day in Rwanda. Rwanda is leapfrogging into the future of energy with such initiatives.

Rwanda is not unaccustomed to setting the record in the solar energy sector.  In 2015, Rwanda set the record for the largest solar power project in East Africa, with the Rwamagana solar power plant in Aghozo-Shalom village. Although the record was later broken by Uganda’s 19 million USD Soroti Solar plant, Rwanda is now back on the lead, with the 38 million USD Ignite Rwanda solar project.

In order to fuel its economic growth, Rwanda’s target is to substantially increase its energy supply from 190 MW in 2016 to 563MW in 2018.  While at the same time increasing access to electrification to 100% of households and public institutions with a combination of 48% on grid and 52% off grid energy supply solutions.

The target set out in the Rural Electrification Strategy by the Ministry of Infrastructure (MININFRA) is to achieve 70 % of electricity access by 2017/2018. Of this, at least 48 per cent of the households will be either connected to the national grid or own an off grid large Solar Home System which is capable of providing the same electricity as the national grid. 22 per cent will own a smaller off grid system consisting of 4 light bulbs, phone charging point and a radio. This initiative is driven by public-private partnerships.

Ignite Power Ltd is one such solar financing company that has signed an implementation agreement with MININFRA to provide quality Home Solar Systems to 250,000 households in rural areas. Ignite Rwanda project is the largest solar project in East Africa in terms of value according to a 2016 Bloomberg New Energy Finance Survey. Energy Development Corporation Ltd (EDCL) is supporting the project in creating customer awareness and mobilization.

The company commenced a full nation wide roll-out in June, 2016 and has thus far trained and deployed more than 830 installers to reach a rate of up to 250 household connections per day. “To date with only 7 months into our operation, we managed to install 20,000 Solar Home Systems of 48,000 that have so far been shipped. This means that we have light up the homes of more than 100,000 Rwandans. These are individuals who no longer have to risk their health by using kerosene to light their houses or waste money and time travelling into towns to purchase kerosene or candles or charge their phones and buy radio batteries,” said Yariv Cohen CEO of Ignite Power.

In 2017, the company targets to connect 30,000 households every quarter.

With a few Solar power distributors already in the Rwandan market, Ignite power model is unique. The company focuses on client financing, and works collaboratively with local distributors, from established Rwandan companies to local entrepreneurs. Ignite procures products from the best suppliers of Solar systems, and sells the units, combined with financing through multiple channels. Ignite’s suppliers produce over 500,000 solar systems per month, which gives ignite unlimited manufacturing capacity.

Ignite’s unique model enabled the company to have the fastest scale up in Africa. According to Bloomberg, it has a connection rate of close to 250 homes reaching 1,500 people per day in Rwanda. The company is on its way to reaching its goal of connecting 500 households a day.

The flexible Pay-As-You-Go model has made it easy for customers to own their Solar Home Systems. The systems come with a 2 year guarantee and unlimited after-sale services. The system consist of four lights that can provide up to 6hours of light, 2 phone charge capability as well as a free radio and is repayable within 24  months.  Ignite’s plan for Rwanda is the most affordable in Africa for a 4 light systems, according to the Bloomberg report.

Furthermore, Ignite Power Rwanda signed a rollout agreement with Energizing Development (EnDev), an energy access partnership currently financed by six donor countries: the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Sweden.

The Ignite Power Team

Creating job opportunities for youth and women

Ignite Power has created opportunities for youth and women through direct and indirect employment. The company prides itself in having 70% of its workforce as women.  The company employs over 70 people at its head office and call center in Kigali where technical support is offered as well as on the ground technical support team spread across the country. In addition, there are opportunities for entrepreneurial positions as sales representatives in all the 30 districts where Ignite operates.

Some customers are also earning money through phone charging services to their neighbors – a service they would otherwise have to travel a long distance to obtain.

Transforming lives

The family of Nyagahima Stephen in Kamonyi district is an epitome of how Ignite Power is touching the lives of people in rural areas. Before they were connected to the Solar Home System, they typically used kerosene or candles to light their house.

“We used to spend a lot of money buying kerosene or candles and we could not always afford it. For us living in a rural area, it is not easy to light a house on a daily basis using kerosene or candles because they are both very expensive. We would to prepare to go to bed very early; by 2 pm we would start cooking so that by 6pm we have had dinner and then go to bed as we could not do anything in the dark. Our children also could not do their homework or revise,” Mrs. Nyagahima said.

Today Nyagahima’s family members are enjoying the liberty of lighting their house at any time of day. Elizabeth Muhimakazi, their daughter who recently completed her High School studies, enjoys tutoring her siblings and neighbors’ children in the evenings. “The children used to find it hard to complete their homework or revise when we were using the kerosene lamps because of poor lighting but now they can read better without straining and it’s more enjoyable for them,” she said.

“I am happy because my family’s health is no longer at risk from using kerosene and the children can comfortably do their homework,” Nyagahima said.

With it’s Headquarters in Rwanda, Ignite Power has operations across 5 countries in East and West Africa.

Source: The New Times

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