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The Government of Rwanda, Mara Corporation Ltd and SB Energy Corp have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to boost solar energy and universal access to affordable electricity.

The deal was inked yesterday during the International Solar Alliance (ISA) Conference taking place in New Delhi, India.

James Musoni, the Minister for Infrastructure and Clare Akamanzi the Chief executive officer Rwanda Development Board (RDB) represented government at the signing ceremony.

The agreement, according to Musoni is aimed at the development of a 30 MW Solar Power with a storage facility project in Rwanda.

The parties agreed to coordinate support and initiate a solar power project development with storage facility.

This will help boost access to electricity through off grid solutions, said the Minister.

It is however, not yet clear when the actual construction will start; but according to the agreement all parties committed full support and noted that they were fully aware of the strategic importance of renewable energy, in particular solar power development towards the national social and economic development of Rwanda.

Sector experts who spoke to Business Times called the deal a timely shot that will ensure universal access to affordable and reliable energy services going forward.

Presently, about 42 per cent of the population has access to power both on-grid and off-grid.

The plan according to Eng. Ron Weiss, the Rwanda Energy Group (REG) chief executive officer is to ensure 100 per cent access to affordable and reliable electricity in the next seven years.

REG's strategy is to focus more on the off-grid solutions to achieve this objective, according to Eng Weiss. "The off-grid solutions are essential given the nature of geographical settlement. Besides, most households consume a lot of energy and, therefore, it is better that they are connected via off-grid."

Last year, the government revised a power rollout plan and embraced a new strategy that seeks to provide power to the entire Kigali city in the next two years and the whole country in the next seven years.

Under the 7-5-2 plan, REG targets to connect all the households by 2024, while the productive users will have power by 2022, and the capital city in the next two years.

The cost of on-grid is higher, at about $700 per connection while that of off-grid is only $65, making it more reasonable for low power users to embrace off-grid solutions.

Already, REG has unveiled a power roll out strategy that will ensure the country realises its power goals and connect all Rwandans to either the national grid or off-grid power sources. To achieve these objectives, it will require strong and public-private sector partnerships.