Prior to the pandemic, Rwanda enjoyed impressive economic growth, exceeding 8 per cent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in 2018 and 2019 that was driven by strong public investment. During the pandemic, Rwanda implemented well-coordinated preventive measures, including lockdowns, and has largely successfully controlled the spread of the virus. Nevertheless, serious economic challenges lie ahead, with significant slowdown of core economic sectors such as services and industry. The government has responded with an economic stimulus package and instructed commercial banks to ease loan repayment conditions.
Rwanda has made impressive progress toward its energy access targets, from less than 10 per cent with access to electricity in 2009 up to 56 per cent in 2020 (of which 15 per cent are off-grid connections). The government has committed to electrifying 48 per cent of the population through off-grid solutions and 52 per cent through on-grid connections by 2024. In 2019, it published the National Electrification Plan (NEP) and the Ministerial Guidelines for Minimum Standards for Solar Home Systems (SHS). While both documents caused uncertainties in the sector, the government has now provided further clarification on which SHS systems are eligible and in which off-grid areas they may be sold. The Off-Grid Monitoring Information System (OMIS), which is in the final stages of development, will track all SHS deployed in the country. The system will be managed by the Energy Development Corporation Limited (EDCL).
SHS sales witnessed a slowdown in the last two fiscal years. Off-grid market sales witnessed a gradual decline from about 86,000 systems sold in 2017/2018 to 83,000 in 2018/2019 and 62,000 in 2019/2020. This is primarily attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, affordability constraints and the uncertainty and delays in the development of the Minimum Standards for SHS. During the lockdown between March and April, stand-alone solar (SAS) companies were largely unable to operate, other than provide after-sales support, and imports came to a halt.