Kigoma Kaskazini – a Potential Kerosene Free Constituency?
Ironically, one key duty is not constitutional – constituency promotion. Increasingly in Tanzania a Member of Parliament is judged not on his constitutional duties, but on constituency promotion duties like bringing in development projects such as roads, water, schools, hospitals and medicine etc. to the constituency, creating jobs and by making a lot of noise in Dodoma.
The people of Kigoma Kaskazini credit my service to them through several fronts but two that stand out is the road construction (the 60KM tarmac road Mwandiga-Manyovu & 34KM Kigoma-Kidahwe) and the other my being very vocal in Parliament. During my re-election campaign in 2010 my constituents in various meetings time and again reiterated the following “roads are done; now we want electricity”. True to their word they have been very vocal and holding me to account especially the coffee farmers of Kalinzi who want to add value to their coffee and get a better return.
The umeme vijijini is not an easy agenda and it is tough getting rural electrification projects from Rural Energy Agency (REA) as costs are very high and the government always gives them a small budget. In the 2011/2012 Budget about TZS 6.5bn was allocated to power 12 villages in Kigoma Kaskazini, but not one single shilling has been remitted to REA from the central government to implement the project. Rural electrification has remained a favorite catch phrase from the government and politicians to wananchi and usually elicits a lot of emotion but we have little to show as progress.
Kigoma Region, mainly Kigoma Town, uses diesel-powered thermal generators with installed capacity of 11MW. However, only 3-4MW is being produced – the cost of producing power in Kigoma is very high. While TANESCO spend TZS 1bn monthly to run Kigoma Generators, it collects about TZS 133Million.
Spurred by this and the many challenges that Kigoma has as a region and my constituency are facing, and being a green energy advocate, I have been championing for a green project working with a US based company known as KMR Infrastructure on a biomass project to produce 10MW of electricity in Kigoma and shut off expensive diesel generators.
The other day I had the opportunity and pleasure to meet the CEO of KMRI here in Washington DC and we discussed a number of issues with regard to their biomass project and other green projects/initiatives that I felt I should share. Some of the highlights from my meeting were;
- By displacing TANESCO diesel mini-grids with biomass power it reduces TANESCO operating costs by 45%, generates thousands of local jobs in agriculture and uses local agricultural biofuel supply to displace imported diesel creating longer sustainable benefits to the region
- Up to 25 Million USD will be invested into this biomass power plant in Kigoma over the coming 3 years.
- In this project 1000 families will be provided with 5 hectares of land each for a bamboo plantation and bamboo will provide fuel for power generation. More jobs will be created through the whole value chain including transportation services. With strong linkages to the rural economy, the project is expected to have enormous positive effects to the people of the Region.
- Power will increase in Kigoma, jobs created and TANESCO will cut their costs.
Kerosene Free Constituency
How will this alternative power solution transform the lives of people from low-income househoulds? KMRI had an answer that I coined “a kerosene free constituency” as highlighted below;
Most of Tanzanian villages’ households use kerosene or paraffin lamps for lighting. By setting up centralized solar charging stations, we could make entire villages kerosene free by replacing oil wick lamps with battery powered CFL light. This will reduce monthly lighting bill by 50% for rural households, provide 40 times better lighting and avoid health hazards from using kerosene or paraffin lighting.
The central village charging centers also act as employment opportunity for rural entrepreneurs providing them USD 3-4 per day in income and also creating immediate market based sustainable electrification program for Tanzanian villages.
Leveraging the proposed renewable biomass plant in Kigoma, a distributed renewable energy infrastructure would be setup to make this kerosene free village initiative.
As a starting point the biomass plan will help 20-40 entrepreneurs set up central solar charging stations in villages and charge 50-100 battery powered CFL lamps. The charging centers will use solar power during the day to charge CFL lights and then sell to households charged lamps that provide 15-20 hours of lighting. After the battery is exhausted, the households return the empty battery lights and can buy another charged light for fresh usage, similar to buying additional kerosene for their lamps. This pay per use model is similar to their current buying patterns and so will be easier to adopt as it is in line with existing habits.’
The daily cost of these CFLs will be 50% less than using kerosene for similar hours in a day.
The CFLs apart from being cheaper will provide considerably much better lighting and hence reduce strain on eyes.
Displacing kerosene also has other benefits like avoiding indoor smoke pollution, eye irritation and fire hazards.
In addition to lighting, the central solar station can also be used to charge cell phone batteries avoiding expensive trips to town and cutting cell phone charging costs by more than half. Providing a reliable and cheap source of charging a phone removes a huge constraint in mobile adoption thus promoting more telecommunication usage in rural areas, leading to increased economic activity, banking services, information availability, and reduced travel time.
The biomass power plant provides the necessary centralized infrastructure to equip and train the entrepreneurs, provide technicians to provide ready technical and operational support to the charging stations to ensure their continued successful functioning”.
Kigoma will also benefit from MCC funded project on solar power.
The solar project will put solar power on “45 secondary schools, 10 health centres, 120 dispensaries, municipal buildings and businesses across 25 village market centres currently without access to the electricity grid.
Camco International, a global clean energy developer, and Rex Investment Limited (RIL), a solar power contractor based in Tanzania, were just awarded USD 4.7 million for this rural Tanzanian solar power project in the region of Kigoma. Source: Clean Technica.
I am not just dreaming of seeing a Mwamgongo village woman throwing away a koroboi and embracing a cleaner energy at lower costs than kerosene, that costs much more in Kigoma, and in Mwamgongo in particular, compared to other places in Tanzania. Kerosene- free villages are in sight. A ‘koroboi’ free Kigoma Kaskazini is possible.
Hard work and focus are necessary. Going beyond the constitutional duties of a member of Parliament is necessary to transform the lives of our people.