Four villages in Mufindi District, Iringa now enjoy the many perks of electricity thanks to the completion of a 4MW hydro electric facility and associated electrical network by Mwenga Hydro Limited, a subsidiary of Mufindi Tea which has set up some 240 connections.
The value of the project is approximately US$10m with about 80 percent of the electricity generated by the project been fed into the Tanesco grid under a Small Power Purchase Agreement (SPPA) with Tanesco.
Speaking over a phone, the Hydro Project Manager, Mike Gratwicke clarified that the 4 villages are the first of 14 others that are to eventually receive the service in a project aimed at improving the welfare of the villagers by accessing sustainable energy sources.
“We are still connecting our customers… our plan is to reach 14 villages by the end of June and we expect our rural network will grow to absorb at least 50 percent of our generated power within 5 years…” the project manager explained.
The electricity retail sales will be done through an innovative cell phone based pre-paid metering system similar to the cell phones airtime scratch card system. As such, the company brand is ‘M-Luku’ in reference to the mobile phone vending system
“This vending approach will largely eliminate the need for customers to travel long distances to pay their bills…” he reassured the potential clients.
In these early stages, the project has specifically targeted facilities such as schools, clinics, institutions, shops and a range of Small Medium Entrepreneurs (SMEs) to maximize the benefit reach.
Nonetheless, the agricultural and forestry sectors are expected to derive the largest direct industrial benefit deeming the project significant for economic development.
The Project Manager disclosed that power line constructions works began in November 2011 but the construction progress was falling behind partly due to access delays during the rain season and also because of terrain that proved to be more difficult than originally anticipated.
The project is however an example of successful collaboration of the Private Public Partnership (PPP) of which 49 per cent of the project is co-financed by the European Union (EU) through the ACP-EU Energy Facility with the commercial financing been obtained through the CRDB Bank PLC.