Power Africa’s investment in Madagascar’s mini-grid development will connect roughly 1,500 households to electricity for the first time.
In November 2020, Power Africa, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), awarded $1.2 million in grants to mini-grid developers in Madagascar to develop and deliver sustainable energy solutions for rural communities, individuals, and businesses. One of the grantees, Hydro Ingenierie Études Et Realisations (HIER), has already connected almost 800 households, providing electricity for people who never had access before.
Only around a quarter of Madagascar’s population has access to electricity, placing the country thirteenth on the global list of highest unelectrified populations.
Rural areas in many developing countries face more challenges in accessing electricity than urban areas due to infrastructure limitations, geographical barriers, and the cost of extending electricity grids to remote locations.
Off-grid electrification solutions, such as mini-grids, can play a vital role in electrifying rural Madagascar. However, private power developers and operators capable of installing and operating mini-grid systems often struggle to enter and expand the mini-grid market because they lack access to project financing.
Catalyzing Construction, Customs Clearance & Connections
HIER’s 560-kilowatt hydro-powered mini-grid plant, built in 2014, initially connected the village of Morarano to electricity. To connect more customers, the company needed to construct additional transmission and distribution infrastructure. For this, HIER required funding and applied to Power Africa’s mini-grid development grant.
Power Africa awarded funds to HIER for the equipment needed to construct roughly 17 kilometers (km) of transmission and 30 km of distribution lines to carry electricity into the towns of Tsarazaza and Fandriana.
The project had its challenges. HIER struggled to get customs clearance for its imported equipment due to a change in tax laws and unforeseen duties, resulting in lengthy delays in getting the equipment from the Toamasina port to Tsarazaza.
With support from Power Africa and USAID Madagascar through engagements with the energy and finance ministries, HIER obtained approval for the waiver of duty. HIER’s equipment was delivered to Tsarazaza in January 2023, enabling the company to begin constructing the distribution network.
In May 2023, HIER completed the line extension. To celebrate HIER’s achievement, Madagascar’s Ministry of Energy and Hydrocarbons, represented by Minister of Energy Soloniaina Rasamoelina Andriamanampisoa and Rural Electrification Development Agency, ADER, hosted an inauguration event in Tsarazaza in June.
“I have a passion for developing green projects with tangible impacts at the level of the rural population. Bringing electricity to people improves their living conditions, and seeing the results of our actions is an undeniable perk of working in the energy sector. We see firsthand the satisfaction generated by the arrival of electricity in a village. Doing what we do is not easy, but the results make it one of the best challenges to overcome!” Elisoa Randrianarison, HIER Director of Control and Coordination.
Meeting the People of Tsarazaza & Fandriana
The village of Tsarazaza is located in the district of Fandriana in the Amoron’i Mania region in central Madagascar. Farming (mainly rice) and livestock are the primary economic activities.
Tsarazaza can only be accessed by off-road (4x4) vehicles, with a 10-hour drive from the capital, Antananarivo, through challenging terrain and poor road infrastructure that are impassable during the rainy season. However, Tsarazaza is enveloped in hilly, lush, green landscapes and full of friendly people, most of whom have lived there all their lives.
Alfred Rajaonarivelo, a retired teacher, had to close his photocopying and printing business after using solar panels became too costly due to recurring maintenance. With HIER’s distribution network extension, Alfred has reopened his business, one he says the community needs and is overjoyed with the positive change: “We’ve been waiting for so long, and finally, it’s not a dream anymore. It’s reality. Electricity improves our daily life. I am so happy.”
Jaobelina Randriamanatsoa, 82, is a new electricity customer who has raised 11 children in Tsarazaza, with candles as the only source of light. He shared, “I’m so happy to have electricity because I can finally watch TV.”
Sahondra Razafindrakaza is a farmer whose solar panel has been broken for some time. She plans to buy a radio and TV with her new electricity connection. Most households used candles and solar for light or petrol for generators, and clean, affordable, and more reliable electricity is a commodity that is new to the community.
More Rural Electrification Underway
The second Power Africa Mini-Grid Development grantee, Autarsys, is on course to finish by September 2023. Autarsys will electrify three villages in the southwestern Atsimo Andrefana region through new hybrid solar-powered mini-grids with integrated battery storage technology.
Power Africa is proud to support the off-grid electricity sector in Madagascar by catalyzing investment into clean energy projects and accelerating the pace of new clean energy connections.