Mbuye Town House with CVS Solar Plant installed in 2014
Project Village Mentor was stared spring 2013 in the village Mbuyei in Rwanda, where one of the project initiators had lived for several years. Having surveyed the needs and economy among residents, a number of photovoltaic units of different sizes were installesd in public buildings and private homes. From the experiences with these test facilities, we saw that the most effective way to provide electricity to poor rural households was to install small photovoltaic units in each house. We will therefore focus on this solution. Since we have already established good contacts in and around Mbuyei, it is natural to start there. Further expansion from there will be to other districts and provinces in Rwanda and eventually to other countries.
The project’s ambition is to give private households n Rwanda access to renewable solar energy at an affordable price. To reach this ambition, most units must be sold and paid by installments. Without external sponsorship the monthly cost for most “normal income” families will be balanced by the reduction in other costs. The main cost savings will be from reduced use of kerosene for lighting and no need for external mobile phone charging.
Based on the experiences from the test period, the new system consists of three main parts:
- A number of small photovoltaic units of 30 to 100W, designed to provide electricity to one family each.
- Public GSM network for communication between the units
- A control centre for storage of technical data, customer data and payment history.
The Solar Home System units are installed in a couple of hours, fully independent of each other, with the solar panel mounted on the rooftop of the customers house
Most potential customers do not afford to buy their equipment for cash, and are therefore reliant on an installment plan. Since the majority of the potential customers do not have bank accounts, the payments should be handled outside the banking system. The GSM network is well developed in Rwanda, and most families have access to at least one mobile phone. Thus, they also have a mobile subscription and through it access to the payment methode Mobile Money. Thus, the customers will be able to pay their monthly / weekly installments over the phone bill. When the agreed installment period has expired, the customer will get full ownership to the installation, and get access to free electricity for the rest of the Solar Home System operational lifetime.