French multinational power company ENGIE on October 20 inaugurated a mini-network comprising 16 kW of solar photovoltaic panels, a 45-kWh lithium-ion battery bank, and a back-up genset to supply power to Ketumbeine, a village in northern Tanzania with about 800 residents.
The PowerCorner project (Figure 6) was launched in early 2015. ENGIE said the project will be progressively replicated throughout Africa as part of one its key objectives, which is to provide rural populations with access to environmentally friendly energy. The village with 161 households is situated about 36 kilometers away from the nearest grid connection, in northern Tanzania’s Arusha region.
The Alliance for Rural Electrification, an industry group established in 2006 to represent the decentralized clean energy sector, said on its website that among the project’s challenges was to come up with a “compelling solution” that was compatible with the dynamics of the community while still being affordable.
The €140,000 project—financed entirely by Engie—uses an innovative business model that requires clients to pay an upfront connection fee. It also involves a smart meter to charge clients for their consumption of power on a pre-paid basis. Payments are submitted by mobile money, an electronic wallet service that allows users to store, send, and receive money using a mobile phone. The project includes a local operator in the village, who was trained to manage the site and provide technical and commercial services to clients.
“The specific project will not pay off in terms of economic return itself but it will be tested for a roll-out of several mini-grids in Tanzania for ENGIE that will prove the economics and returns of the business model at scale,” the alliance noted.
—Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)