Mwenga Hydro Limited, a subsidiary of Mufindi Tea and Coffee is completing construction of a 4MW hydro electric facility and associated electrical network in the Mufindi District of Iringa Region. An effort aimed at improving the welfare of the villagers and as well as access sustainable energy sources.
Speaking with journalists at the centre in Mufindi on Friday, Mwenga Hydro Project Manager, Mike Gratwicke said that the first electricity amps are expected to flow this month during a test operation which has been delayed four months already.
Gratwicke said the project will provide electricity for the first time ever to 14 villages located along the route of the main power line.
“It is expected that there will be more than 2,600 new rural connections created as part of the project…” explained the project manager who further underscored the fact that “…these new connections will include a significant number of new domestic connections…”
He pointed out that the project has specifically targeted facilities such as schools, clinics, institutions, shops and a range of Small Medium Entrepreneurs (SMEs) hoping to ‘improve’ rural communities through the productive usage of electricity.
The agricultural and forestry sectors are expected to derive the largest direct industrial benefit deeming the project significant for economic development.
All electricity retail sales will be done through an innovative cell phone based pre-paid metering system similar to cell phones airtime scratch card system.
“This vending approach will largely eliminate the need for customers to travel long distances to pay their bills, we have decided to brand our electricity in the name of ‘M-LUKU’ due to the mobile phone component of the vending system…” expounded Mike Gratwicke.
M-Pesa is a money transfer system pioneered by Vodacom the South African telecommunication giant. Luku is a metering digital system that measures units of electricity and reloads from scratch cards or now, through a cell phone.
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 wet season and also because terrain involved proving to be more difficult than originally anticipated.
“We now expect the main power line backbone to be complete around the third week of July…after which project testing and subsequent commissioning can begin…” Mike said.
Project accountant, Deograsias Massawe said that the project is 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.
Massawe also said that the total cost of the investment of the project is approximately US $ 10 million. Upon completion, approximately 80 percent of the electricity generated by the project will be fed into the Tanesco grid under a Small Power Purchase Agreement (SPPA) agreement with Tanesco.