Lack of Demand or Lack of Supply?

It’s also great to experience the reality on the ground in East Congo and to overthrow presumptions from typical Western desk analyses. Just a very plain example: when discussing the hydropower business case with a development banker, the feedback was that there is no market for electricity in these areas. There wouldn’t be enough paying customers. Lack of demand. Well, let’s imagine an area with tens of thousands of people and hardly access to energy. How can a community develop or a local economy progress without energy? There are entrepreneurs, organisations, better-off individuals who do have access to energy: by means of expensive generators.

They run their businesses and households with electricity at very high prices. There is obviously an enormous lack of supply! Hydropower is more than welcome. A must for (the development of) the local private sector. And for the development of the “normal people”? They need electricity as well. If only for the kids to do their homework in the evenings; to get a better educated next generation. This is an area at the equator; it’s dark around 18.30h year round. Entrepreneurs as well as individuals are willing to pay for electricity.

The tariff structure is different compared to the West; the more kilowatts one purchases, the more it costs per kilowatt. Commercial parties pay more per KW than private individuals. It are not only the enterprises being interested to connect to the local off-grid network (via six month contracts), also households are queuing up. In Mutwanga, where we have our smaller pilot hydropower plant (generating 400KW), people are willing to pay an initial USD 110 fee and get an installation box plus connection. Subsequently, they can buy kilowatts via a prepaid system, similar to the mobile phone top up.

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