Sector: Clean Energy
Partner since: 2015
Despite being assessed as having the highest potential for hydropower in the whole of Africa, current output in DRC is just 3% of its potential. In fact, DRC has one of the lowest electrification rates in the world at just 9%.
DRC is the size of Western Europe, but the national public electricity company SNEL runs only 17 hydro power stations across the entire country. And only 11 are classified as large, having a capacity over 10 megawatts.
Funding from the Government of DRC, the Government of India, the China EXIM Bank, Sinohydro Corp and the Warren Buffett Foundation have contributed to the development of a handful of large or high capacity hydroelectric power stations at a cost of millions of dollars.
However, with a focus on urban hubs such as Goma and the capital Kinshasa, electrification rates in rural areas - particularly across Kivu - remain at just under 1%.
Rather than wait for these large-scale infrastructure projects to eventually reach their rural town, community leaders in Nyangezi, a small market town located 23km from Bukavu, chose instead to innovate their own response.
Domitille Vumilia established Solidarité Coopérative pour le Développement Intégré or SOCODI, a community-led cooperative to install a micro hydroelectric power station that would connect Nyangezi - including homes, schools, hospitals and local businesses - to an affordable and reliable clean energy supply.
Prior to this, a small number of people in the community had relied solely on an expensive and unreliable energy supply from SNEL.
Ensemble provided a loan to finance the installation of a community-owned hydroelectric power station, as well as technical and business support.
We also advised SOCODI on the design and installation of a customer relationship management system
Our Consultants are now working with SOCODI on customer research and the development and installation of fuse boxes within the network.
the SOCODI plant is now one of only three operational power plants in the entire Kivu region
On a recent visit to Nyangezi our team interviewed SOCODI members and customers about the impact of the power plant on the community. Below is a video that tells the story of SOCODI’s work:
The service is now being piloted within 125 homes and businesses in Nyangezi. To help SOCODI further improve their support to customers, Ensemble interviewed a sample of this initial customer group.
The feedback was encouraging - SOCODI had been successful in switching many households over from SNEL and 86% of respondents felt this change had been positive. Businesses have been able to open in the evenings for the first time. Bars and restaurants have screened football matches for customers.
The research highlighted the need for SOCODI to continue to ensure a high-quality service and address reliability issues if they are to increase their number of customers and effectively compete with SNEL. In response, they have hired new electricians to improve service quality. Ensemble is also working with them to implement a digital solution for delivering affordable pricing plans for both residential and business customers.