Ignite Power connects 250 homes a day to off-grid solar systems in Rwanda

The Rwandan Government, through its Rural Electrification Strategy by the Ministry of Infrastructure (MININFRA), has set an ambitious target of achieving 70% electricity access across Rwanda by 2017/2018. Rwandan newspaper, The New Times, reports that “In order to fuel its economic growth, Rwanda’s target is to substantially increase its energy supply from 190 MW to 563 MW in 2018.”

Explored further, the target is to increase access to electricity for 100% of households and public institutions. To do so a combination of 48% on-grid connections and 52% off-grid connections will be accessed and used. The government plans to achieve this through the establishment of public-private partnerships.

Ignite Power is one such private organisation which has already entered into a PPP with MININFRA to provide quality off-grid solar home systems to 250,000 households in rural areas across Rwanda. Ignite Power’s operating model is unique in that it works collaboratively with local distributers who are capable of producing over 500,000 solar systems per month. It then sells the products together with Ignite company financing. Households that receive off-grid solar installations, which come with a two year unlimited after-sales service guarantee, enter into a flexible pay-as-you-go model.

Ignite Power’s CEO, Yariv Cohen, is quoted by East African Business Week as saying “Clean energy is the best solution for Africa power needs. Distributed solar energy is enabling communities to leapfrog beyond the grid and bring power quicker and cheaper to African communities. We are proud to partner with the Government of Rwanda and take part in this transformational effort of deploying access to energy at large scale.”

Full nationwide roll-out of the agreement commenced in June 2016 and the results to date have been impressive. So far more than 830 off-grid solar installers have been trained and deployed and they are able to reach up to 250 households per day.

While satisfied with its initial results Ignite Power intends to continue growing and increasing its ability to reach rural households in an affordable manner. Says Cohen, as quoted by The New Times, “To date with only 7 months into our operation, we managed to install 20,000 Solar Home Systems of [the] 48,000 which have so far been shipped. This means that we have light [sic] 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 traveling to purchase kerosene or candles or charge their phones.”

The New Times also claims that “Rwanda is not unaccustomed to setting the record in the solar energy sector” for East Africa. In 2015 it set the record for the largest national grid connected solar park according to value, with the Rwamagana solar plant in Aghozo-Shalom village, in the region but this was later taken over by Uganda with its Soroti solar plant worth USD 19 million. Not to be outdone Rwanda is in the process of constructing its Ignite Rwanda solar project valued at USD 38 million.

The article follows up on other articles related by the same author by the same author related to access to energy and enabling off-grid connections. In November 2016 he discussed how Africa is leapfrogging power lines while in February 2017 he reported on d.light raising $40 million in funding for off-grid solar installations.