REA’s journey towards lighting up rural areas

06Dec 2021
By Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
REA’s journey towards lighting up rural areas

​​​​​​​IN 2007, when the government moved in and established  the Rural Energy Agency (REA) no one could believe that 69.6 percent of rural mainland Tanzania would have access to electricity by 2020.

This exceeded the 50 per cent target that the state-run agency had planned. When REA started its journey 14 years ago, there were only 2 per cent of rural homes connected to the national grid.

Being an autonomous body under the ministry of Energy, REA’s main role is to promote and facilitate improved access to energy in rural areas on the Tanzania mainland.

Presenting a report on the establishment of Rural Energy Agency, responsibilities and achievements in Dar es Salaam recently, REA director general Hassan Saidy said: “We’re determined to ensure that all the remaining 3,800 villages will be connected to electricity supply under the ongoing REA-III Phase II project by December next year.”

The project initiated in 2007 through the Rural Energy Act No 8 of 2005 has so far seen over 60 per cent of villages having access to electricity.

He  said: “So far 750,000 households had been connected to electricity by end of June this year, up from 716,847 connected  by June last year,  underlining that the government is well prepared to pursue the exercise, covering all areas and households, to stimulate individual incomes and development generally.”

The implementation of the REA project has seen the country increasing access to power to 69.6 per cent of villages in June 2020, up from two percent when the project started in 2007.  So, all the remaining villages are covered with the ongoing phase, he stated.

In the intervening period, electronic device manufacturing industries in the country have increased from four to 39, thus providing employment opportunities to youth and women, he said.

According to him, the agency had up to June last year installed 13,700 transformers, connected 35,253.43 kilometers of low voltage lines, another 38,296.56 kilometers of medium voltage lines thus connecting 716, 847 consumers at a budget of 2.66trn/-, he elaborated.

Several small energy access projects have been implemented to support the main REA projects, like the generation of power from stand-alone solar PV (photovoltaic) systems and from biomass (plants, wood and waste).

About 21 such projects were implemented, with 13 being mini-hydro projects, seven wielding solar energy and a biomass system in Mafia Island.

The agency also facilitated the installation of 725 biogas plants in different rural areas in the country, as well as installing electricity systems to 831 civil servants households in the education and health sector in Shinyanga, Kigoma, Kagera, Coast, Lindi, Mtwara, Ruvuma and Tabora.

The outcome is improved social services in health, education and business in rural areas.

With such improvements, 7,735 education institutions have been connected to electricity, along with 19,667 entities doing business, 3,400 water pumping machines and 4,002 health facilities in rural habitats.

Saidy said through the agency the government was able to supply electricity to all districts headquarters in the country.

According to REA, the agency plans to give electricity access to 75 per cent of rural Tanzania by 2025 and achieve a fully coverage come 2030.

The REA boss said: “We’d continue to cooperate with financial institution to finance more power projects in rural areas. These projects need big funding   and its success also depends on good government support, and that of development partners and donors.”

Moreover, he stated there are still challenges that limits some of the rural to yet get access of electricity include poor infrastructures, lack of awareness and some unable to buy some of the connecting supplies due to income restrictions.

Energy ministry assistant commissioner for electricity development, Styden Rwebangila, said that in line with promoting clean energy through the project, a 50MW of geothermal project has been approved, while investors are expected to develop geothermal, wind and solar power projects of 145MW total capacity.

The REA project started with first connecting village centers by supplying key infrastructures, followed by connecting households. The demand is higher than what was planned for some regions where a big number of people show interest in being connected, he said.

The ministry is going on with sensitizing campaigns in villages where power supply has reached as some residents don’t show interest in being connected, he stated.

The Rural Energy Master Plan being finalised will enable 75 percent access to electricity by 2025 and 100 per cent access by 2030, the commissioner added.