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Solar-powered water pump
[DAR-ES-SALAAM] Sweden has signed a five-year agreement with the government of Tanzania to fund a programme aimed at encouraging the introduction of solar power across the country, particularly in rural villages.

The Swedish government will contribute a total of 27 million Swedish kronor (US$3.2 million) to the country’s Solar Panel Rural Electrification Project, which will be supplemented by the government of Tanzania through a special fund for rural electrification from July.

The project is part of a national effort to speed up the process of rural electrification, and represents the biggest such investment ever made in solar energy in Tanzania, where 90 per cent of electricity is currently produced by hydroelectric power.

At present only a few people in Tanzania, mostly in urban areas, use solar power. But government officials say that environmental conditions make Tanzania a good candidate for further investment in solar technology. The new funding, which is being provided by the Swedish International Development Agency, will equip villages with photovoltaic (PV) technology to power lights, computers, televisions, radios, water pumps and so on.

According to Ralph Karhammar, an official with the Swedish Embassy in Tanzania, the electrification project will include the training of solar-PV suppliers in marketing and business administration, and of banking professionals in evaluating their business plans. It will also help both consumers and suppliers to find ways to purchase (or stock) solar-PV systems, and will support national and regional campaigns to promote solar-PV systems.

A market study for the project points out that in countries such as Sri Lanka and Indonesia, a similar approach has already led to increased sales and substantially reduced the costs of PV technology, even in the short term.

Karhammar says that even though the initial costs of installing solar technology is higher than other forms of energy production, in the long run the costs of solar-PV are significantly lower, particularly when servicing costs are taken into account.

Currently less than one per cent of the villagers in Tanzania are connected to the national electricity grid, and this is unlikely to increase significantly in the near future. In country as a whole, only 10 per cent of the population use electricity. The rest rely on firewood, kerosene, and diesel as fuel.

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SIDA: energy sector

Photo credit: NREL/Jerry Anderson