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Harvesting the Power of the Sun in Rema

The Solar Energy Foundation and Good Energies Bring Electicity to Ethiopian Village

Sep 12, 2008 - Clinton Global Initiative

On July 31, President Clinton visited the rural community of Rema, the first “solar village” in Ethiopia. After making a Commitment to Action at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in 2006, the Solar Energy Foundation (SEF) and Good Energies, Inc. installed 1,100 solar panels in Rema, generating electricity for more than 5,500 people. Access to electricity has made night school and refrigerated medicine possible and has improved villagers’ eyesight. “Renewable energy is the economic opportunity of this century,” said Marcel Brenninkmeijer, chairman of Good Energies. We recently had the opportunity to ask Harald Schutzeichel, director and CEO of the Solar Energy Foundation, about his commitment in Rema. In 1998 Dr. Schutzeichel established the first solar company in Germany to have solar shares in Europe, and in 2005 he founded the Solar Energy Foundation.

Q. What brought you to Rema?

A. Normally, an NGO installs a diesel generator, while the people are responsible for finding fuel, ensuring maintenance, etc. However, the villagers of Rema said they don’t want a technology they cannot pay for, especially since diesel is becoming more and more expensive. That is why the inhabitants of Rema asked us for solar energy. They knew about the technology from a previous, smaller project we had installed about one year ago. Our project in Rema is very important to us because it demonstrates the ways in which solar energy can be used and make a difference. We have installed solar home systems for light, radio, and cassette recorders in more than 1,000 huts. It is the largest solar project in East Africa to date.

Q. President Clinton was impressed by the impact you have had in Rema in a short time. What SEF sites in Rema did President Clinton visit?

A. President Clinton visited the evening school for adults, a project initiated by the women of Rema after our team installed the light. Many of these women have stated that the light gave them the chance to learn how to read and write, something which was previously impossible.

Q. There are many components to your work in Rema, including solar energy production and solar water pumps. What has been the community’s response to these approaches?

A. People are extremely happy to have a safe and reliable source of lighting. Light is needed after sunset, which is around 6 p.m. in Ethiopia. Children require sufficient lighting to do their homework, and adults need better lighting to improve their living and working conditions. Paraffin lamps have been the only source of lighting in the countryside. Apart from producing about 160 kilograms (352 pounds) of carbon dioxide, these lights are very weak and can cause eye damage. Solar energy, on the other hand, provides people with lighting that is affordable, healthy, and safe. Furthermore, light at night is a symbol that development in rural areas is possible.

Q. What impact could this commitment have within Ethiopia and throughout rural regions in Africa?

A. Our aim is to initiate a self-supported solar business. Communities across Africa do not need our alms; instead, they could benefit from our expertise in solar energy, which could help them become self-sufficient.

Q. How did you develop your partnership with Good Energies and how has it accelerated your work?

A. Good Energies is one of our most loyal and special partners. They have been with us since our first project in 2005, and have committed to support our work over the next few years. This is extremely important, as the success of our projects depends on sustainable and reliable partnerships. Without their trust and commitment, our work in Rema would not have been impossible.

Photos courtesy of the Solar Energy Foundation (Stiftung Solarenergie)


Updated: 2003/07/28