Our nation’s campaign to double the number of people in Sub-Saharan Africa with access to electrical power is starting to make real progress.
In conjunction with President Obama’s Power Africa initiative, a Dutch energy company has completed work on and started operation of a solar power facility in Rwanda. The 8.5 megawatt solar project comes after completion of a wind energy “farm” in Kenya, hydro-electric dams in Tanzania, a geothermal power plant in Ethiopia, among other projects, and will boost Rwanda’s ability to provide its citizens with electricity by 6 percent, which translates to power for about 15,000 homes.
Sub-Saharan Africa is a land of great promise and resources, such as timber, minerals, water and fertile soil. A key factor needed to develop these resources is lacking, however. That’s reliable electrical power. Without it, businesses and economies cannot develop, and in many areas community life stops after dark. Greater private sector investment such as the solar farm project in Rwanda will provide for sustained, equitable economic growth.
The Dutch firm Gigawatt Global developed the new solar field outside the capital, Kigali, at a cost of $423.7 million. Private investors and lenders raised the money with strong support from the Rwandan government. When the plant is fully operational, it could provide some electrical power to neighboring Burundi, as well.
With continually decreasing operating costs, minimal maintenance and no fuel costs, renewable energy projects such as Rwanda’s solar field make more sense now than ever before, especially in remote settings. The Gigawatt Global project and others like it, realized with the support of the U.S. Department of State, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, underscore that the best path to energy access and economic development is also the sustainable path of clean energy.
These projects support America’s vision for our partnership with Africa: cooperation that unleashes growth and the potential of every citizen.