The work of the German companies Stadtwerke Mainz, Juwi and my friend Jutta in completing this plant is impressive. With 250kW it may be small compared to conventional power plants, but huge for solar power. This project broke new ground in Rwanda.
The press was unquestioningly positive.
Unfortunately, I think this project is misguided for a couple of reasons:
- This is a large grid-connected plant. The future of solar energy in Rwanda is small household systems. This project demonstrates how not to do solar projects in Rwanda. The 250kW contribution to the grid of about 50 000kW is minimal. If the 250kW had instead been installed as 2500 household systems, the impact would have been much larger.
- The plant was built entirely by German companies with German financing. The amount of technology and skills transfer is minimal.
- The plant is a donation that makes no commercial sense. It demonstrates the technical possibilities of solar power, but not its economic viability. It is the economic viability that will decide about the future of solar energy in Rwanda.
- Such non-commercial projects destroy local markets by suppressing prices to artificially low levels. Commercial energy projects in all sectors are being held back by unrealistically low cost expectations in the country.