The East African power plant was built in less than a year. Jobs have been created and the country is well on its way to supply electricity to half the population by 2017. In the first year, the plant produced around 15 million kilowatt hours, transmitting energy at an intermediate station 9 km away, which has received mixed reactions in local communities. Twagirimana, 32, defends himself: “Our neighbors say they want energy that comes directly from here because they think it will be cheaper. But it’s wrong. We sell it to the state which redistributes it. Even our building is supplied with energy by the conventional network. ”
The solar field is connected to a central server in Oslo which can be monitored remotely via the Internet. Twagirimana believes that this project could serve as an example for the entire continent. “Africa is very sunny. Some of its residents live in remote areas where there is no electricity. Solar energy is the solution for our continent. ”
The project was carried out on land owned by the Agahozo-Shalom youth village, whose mission is to take care of the most vulnerable children orphaned before and after the genocide. This lease is the primary source of income for this village created six years ago where 512 young people are taking courses and extra-curricular activities.
Jean-Claude Nkulikiyimfura, the village director, said: “This project probably broke all records: in less than a year, it was ready. Many visitors interested in the development of projects are attracted and we gain visibility. It’s a unique site and we’re proud to be a partner. ”
Some young people from the village received training at the plant and one of them worked on the project. Nkulikiyimfura, 40, adds: “Renewable energy is the way forward and we are really proud to contribute to its development. This site shows what can be done when government works hand in hand with the private sector and other public sector entities. ”
Village resident Bella Kabatesi, 18, whose parents died from illness when she was four, used solar energy to power a night light in memory of the now-deceased village founder. “The large solar power plant will help people and the country because the electricity it provides is cheaper than conventional energy,” she said.
Rwanda is criticized for human rights violations, while being praised for its mobilization for development. Chaim Motzen, co-founder and managing director of Gigawatt Global and a pioneer of solar energy in Israel, says: “Rwanda has 110 megawatt hours for a population of 12 million people; Israel has 13,000 megawatt hours for 8 million people. This country really desperately needed this energy.
The conditions in Rwanda are excellent for doing business – he is not corrupt – this was a determining factor. I also think that the government really wanted to act quickly. Our partners in the field were competent. The country is now a model: it shows that agreements can be concluded quickly in the field of energy and that projects can be carried out. It is a catalyst for future projects in Rwanda and other inspiring countries. ”
Solar energy is a key part of Africa’s future, according to Motzen. “Is this a sufficient solution? No, because the sun does not shine all the time. But is this a major part of the solution? I’m convinced. ”
Yosef Abramowitz, President of Gigawatt Global, told a delegation of US government officials and Bono during a site visit in August: “We have decoupled economic growth from rising emissions. We produce 6% of the country’s capacity without contributing to global warming. We should not choose in Paris between the economy and the environment and this project will be the proof. So we can break the deadlock and the world will adopt solar energy. ”
Translation: Frédéric Schneider / VoxEurop