June 19 2019

Dutch firm to invest $70m in solar factory in Rwanda

Source: The New Times

At least 900,000 households, or 4.2 million people, will be connected to electricity in the next five years if the proposed solar factory begins operations.

Dutch solar firm, NOTS, has announced it will invest $70 million (about Rwf61 billion) in the production of solar lighting products in Rwanda, raising the country’s prospects of achieving universal coverage by 2024.

The development comes after the Government, early this month, said it had signed an agreement with the firm to manufacture and distribute solar home systems.

The New Timeshas established that, under the agreement, NOTS will set up a factory in Rwanda for manufacturing solar home systems while the Government will be obliged to purchase from the firm solar systems for some 100,000 households in the next three years.

“There is an arrangement to supply solar systems and we progressively pay them later. This model will help Rwandans get them timely and speed up access to energy compared to covering the cost immediately,” Claver Gatete, the Minister for Infrastructure told The New Times.

Solange Mutezintare, NOTS Chief Operating Officer in Rwanda, said that they offer the home solar systems for Rwf52,500 payable in 100 weekly instalments.

This is affordable for most Rwandan families, she said, even for households in the first and second Ubudehe categories.

With the size of investment, the Government is also keen on supporting the firm to tap into the export market in the region as it increasingly bids to promote its Made-in-Rwanda programme to help bridge the trade deficit.

“There are over 20 companies engaged in off-grid energy business, especially solar energy. And, they have been importing the products into the country. So, the aim of the firm is to set up a factory that will be making such products that those who were importing them buy them from Rwanda,” Gatete disclosed.

The expected impact

At least 900,000 units of home solar systems will be produced for the local market in the next four years, Mutezintare said, adding that extra one million units meant for the export market will be produced every year starting in 2022.

Rwanda targets to achieve universal electricity connectivity by 2024.

According to Rwanda Energy Group (REG), 51 per cent of Rwandan households are connected to electricity, with 37 per cent connected to the national grid and 14 per cent connected through off-grid systems, mainly solar.

Entities whose agricultural, commercial and industrial activities require electricity as a direct input to production of goods or provision of services will be all connected before the end of the year 2022, government says.

To achieve this objective, REG says it intends to increase the number of new connections by 500,000 every year, including 200,000 on-grid and 300,000 off-grid.

Minister Gatete said that, after making solar systems for homes, the firm will later engage in developing solar products to be used in remote schools and health posts which have no access to electricity.