Tanzania announces One Million Solar Homes initiative

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The Tanzanian national government has announced its One Million Solar Homes initiative aimed at providing a million Tanzanian homes with access to reliable solar electricity by the end of 2017.

The project is expected to provide solar electricity for 10% of the nation’s population and generate more than 15,000 solar industry jobs. Currently, 86% of Tanzanians depend on kerosene and candles for light.

According to Tanzania-based Off Grid Electric Ltd., which is implementing the One Million Solar Homes initiative, the plan sets a model for other nations working towards the Power Africa initiative announced by U.S. President Barack Obama in 2013 to double the number of people with access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. Known in Tanzania as M-Power, Off Grid is leveraging the leasing model of their equity investor and the largest U.S. solar provider, SolarCity, to provide affordable solar power in developing markets. Monthly payments will start at $0.20 per day, according to the company.

“We know Tanzanians will flourish with access to clean and reliable light and electricity access,” said Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete. “In partnership with Off Grid Electric, our country can lead the way toward universal energy access by 2030.”

The initiative will leverage development finance and private capital to bring more than $100 million in investment into Tanzania.

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The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is providing $7 million for Phase 1 of the initiative, which is expected to reach 100,000 households and small businesses in Northern Tanzania. Financial contributions have also been made by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), USAID Development Innovation Ventures Program, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and SunFunder.

“The possibilities renewable energy innovators can unlock are not only abundant, but inspiring,” said John Morton, OPIC’s chief of staff. “I’m excited to see what Off-Grid Electric can achieve from this partnership with the Tanzanian government. Through our U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Finance program, OPIC has seen bold companies like Off-Grid Electric advance the limits of how and where Africans can access clean, plentiful power.”

USAID Deputy Administrator Alfonso Lenhardt added, “Having served as the U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania, I’ve seen how improving access to electricity can empower vulnerable communities to escape a cycle of extreme poverty. By harnessing innovation to implement scalable, low-cost solutions, we can bring clean, renewable energy to Tanzania’s most vulnerable communities.”

Oumar Seydi, IFC director for Eastern and Southern Africa, pointed out that as developing countries moved to greener, low-carbon growth paths, the private sector would play a critical role in expanding access to energy. “IFC supports innovative companies such as Off Grid Electric, which provides low-cost, clean energy solutions. Off Grid’s partnership with the government of Tanzania will benefit large segments of the population not connected to the grid.”

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