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Turning the page: Sustainable, Clean Energy to 45.000 Eritreans through EU sponsored Solar PV Mini-Grids


Access to energy has been known to be one of the greatest challenges facing the Eritrean society, in particular in rural areas, where less than 12% of the household have access to electricity. This has a direct impact on people’s livelihood, including access to water, health care and education services as well as on the productivity of the economy. Using affordable off-grid energy solutions is an Eritrean priority and it can also help the country to catapult itself into a modern, climate-friendly age.

To promote that objective, the implementation of an EU co-funded project was successfully completed a few weeks ago: a project that provides affordable, 24/7 accessible solar powered energy to two towns (Areza and Maidma), 33 surrounding villages in the Debub region: altogether 7.000 households, i.e. more than 45.000 people. Connected to the fully operational, 2.25 megawatt capacity solar photo-voltaic mini-grids there are 12 schools and 7 health institutions. This is the largest stand-alone operating energy solutions in Africa. Among its many benefits, including easy and reliable access, improving water supplies, boosting the local economy, the mini-grids also make electricity affordable even for the poorest households, their impact is, no doubt, life-changing – in particular in areas where people have had practically no access to electricity.

The overall cost of the project was 11,76 million Euro, of which the EU covered 8 million, UNDP 1.9 million and the Eritrean Government 1.8 million. The sustainability of the plants’ operation is ensured through service level agreements and through the availability and further training of Eritrean engineers and maintenance personnel.

On 28 October the Ambassadors of the EU, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, as well as that of the UK, accompanied by the Director General of the Ministry of Energy and other officials of the Ministries of Energy and National Development visited the two sites in Areza and Maidma and met with a range of customers from the local administration to health centres, schools, workshops and bakeries, all highlighting the massive significance of access to affordable and 24/7 accessible energy.

The interest in the other villages of the sub-zoba, not covered by the mini-grids, and indeed also in other parts of the country, where people too want to benefit from reliable and cheap electricity, is running high. Citing the Governor of the sub-zoba, Mr Russom: “access to solar energy and green technologies should be scaled up in all parts of the country for the sake of communities, and also to reverse the adverse effects of climate change”.