Interview: Rwandan ambassador speaks of transformative power of solar in Africa

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Rwanda’s ambassador to the UK has said he hopes the completion of the East African country’s first utility PV power plant earlier this month will inspire similar projects across Africa.

In an interview with PV Tech, high commissioner Williams Nkurunziza said he hoped the 8.5MW grid-connected project, also the first of its kind in East Africa, would encourage the further deployment of solar to meet the continent's growing power needs.

“The cry for power is not only a problem in Rwanda, it’s a problem in East Africa. And if the same solution that we have seen…can help in escalating these interventions across Africa, to help more Africans get access to power, then it’s something that should be encouraged,” he said.

Although Nkurunziza pointed out that solar was still comparatively expensive in Africa, he said the technology offered the promise of bringing power to communities across Africa that are not yet urbanised or served by national grid infrastructure.

“To get power to people is going to be a fact of how much you can use solar to localise distribution rather than feed off a national grid, and I think solar in the days ahead, if we can bring down the cost of technology, the beauty and efficiency and cost of deployment is going to make it a lot easier to address the power shortages we have on the continent.”

Another advance Nkurunziza said would help solar take off in Africa is the development of storage technology.

“We also need to see investments in the capture and storage of solar power, which is going to enhance the attractiveness of solar as a source of power both for Africa and the rest of the world,” he said.

For Rwanda, Nkurunziza said solar was an important element in the country’s plans for future economic growth.

Nkurunziza was speaking ahead of the second Solar Energy East Africa event in Nairobi, Kenya, on 10 and 11 March. Organised by PV Tech’s publisher, Solar Media, the event will feature a high profile line-up of speakers from government and industry, who will discuss the opportunities for solar in the region. Further details are available here.

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