Sector: Renewable and Clean Energy
Partner since: 2015
Despite being assessed by the World Energy Council as having the highest potential for hydropower in Africa, current output in DRC is just 3% of potential capability. In fact, DRC has one of the lowest electrification rates in the world at just 9%.
The national public electricity company SNEL has 17 hydro plants across the country, but just 11 have a capacity of 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 high capacity hydroelectric power stations at a cost of millions of dollars.
However, with a focus on urban areas such as Goma and Kinshasa, electrification rates in rural areas - particularly across Kivu - remain just under 1%.
Rather than wait for these large-scale infrastructure projects to eventually reach their rural town, community leaders in Nyangezi, 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 the town of Nyangezi - including homes, schools, hospitals and local businesses - to an affordable and reliable clean energy supply.
Prior to this, the community had relied solely on an expensive, unreliable energy supply from SNEL.
Ensemble provided a loan of $58,000 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 installation of the power station has been an in-depth and at times technically challenging process.
The result though is that the SOCODI plant is now one of only three operational power plants in the entire Kivu region.
The service is now being piloted within 125 homes and businesses in Nyangezi.
Ensemble conducted research interviews with 30 people from this initial customer group. Their feedback was encouraging - SOCODI have been successful in switching many households over from SNEL and 86% of respondents felt this had been a positive change.
The research highlighted the need for SOCODI to ensure a high-quality, reliable service if they are to maintain customers and effectively compete with SNEL.
SOCODI has now hired additional electricians to improve service quality.
Ensemble is also working with them to implement a technical solution in order to deliver affordable pricing plans for both residential and business customers.