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16 Jan 2019

TAREA INTERVIEW: “Some decision makers do not yet understand the potential of isolated renewable energy systems like mini grids”

Exclusive interview with Dr. Eng. Matthew Matimbwi, Interim Chairperson of East Africa Renewable Energy Federation, Executive Secretary of Tanzania Renewable Energy Association (TAREA) and advisory board member of the upcoming African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa in Cape Town in May."

Dr. Eng. Matthew Matimbwi, Interim Chairperson of Tanzania Renewable Energy Association (TAREA)1.      Let’s start with some background on the TAREA-TZ, your members, aims and activities.
Tanzania Renewable Energy Association (TAREA) is the non-profit member based NGO that works to promote access to the sustainable renewable energy in Mainland Tanzania. Membership of TAREA consists of business companies, NGO, individual professionals, interested individuals, technicians and college students.

The objectives of TAREA are:

  • To advance knowledge and skills.
  • To manage knowledge and dissemination information.
  • To network members and other key actors in the public and private sector.
  • To support the creation of an enabling environment and framework for a sustainable renewable energy market.
  • To support and encourage best practice, including development and enforcement of standards and codes of conduct.
  • To promote the local manufacture of Renewable Energy products and enterprise development in the Renewable Energy.
  • To facilitate market development of Renewable Energy technologies, applications and services.

The objectives of TAREA are realized through the activities of:

  • Policy, regulations and laws lobby and advocacy;
  • Information collection and dissemination;
  • Participation in standards formulation and enforcement;
  • Training and mentoring of the human capacity;
  • Renewable business promotion within the country, regional and international levels;
  • Awareness on the sustainable consumption of the renewable energy products;
  • Enabling poor communities access sustainable renewable energy;
  • Conducting research on the market breakthrough of renewable energy technology;
  • Renewable energy actors networking; and
  • Consultancy service.

2.      Any particular projects in the energy and infrastructure sectors you are involved in? Any success stories/case studies you can share?
TAREA is involved in the following projects:

  • Development of e-waste regulations

TAREA is involved in the project of developing regulations of recycling e-wastes, especially batteries. TAREA has already conducted the study to establish the magnitude of the problem in Tanzania. TAREA is advocating Vice President Office and National Environment Management Council to develop the regulations.

  • End user education of procurement of pico-solar products

TAREA is implementing two projects that aim at raising awareness of the end users on how to procure the quality verified solar products. The project is being sponsored by the World Bank and Landratsamt Enzkreis.

TAREA: Public education session in Mbeya town
Caption: Public education session in Mbeya town

  • Installation of solar systems in Masasi

TAREA provides consultancy service to the project of installation solar systems for dispensaries (medical building and staff houses) at 27 villages and for 2 health centres at 2 villages. The project is financed by Landratsamt Enzkreis.

TAREA: Solar system at Mbemba dispensary labour room
Caption: Solar system at Mbemba dispensary labour room

  • Connecting end of the mile

TAREA has installed solar powered internet library at the rural remote and off-grid village of Malinyi. The aim of the installation is enable rural teachers to access online knowledge platforms and improve their communication.

TAREA: Teachers at Malinyi using solar powered internet.
Caption: Teachers at Malinyi using solar powered internet.

3.      What is your vision for the energy sector on the continent?
Renewable energy is the technology to redeem Africa from the energy poverty in a sustainable manner.

4.      What in your view are the biggest challenges to renewables taking their place in the energy mix on the continent?
The challenges of renewable energy taking place in the energy mix on the continent are:

  • Limited human resources competent in the renewable energy technologies;
  • Inadequate awareness of the decision makers on the potentials of the renewable energy technologies;
  • Inadequate south-south cooperation. There are countries in the south that are very competent in the renewable energy and we do not use their expertise. We always run to the north. Country like India, has reached at the price of US$ Cent 3 for a kWh of the electricity generated from the on grid solar plant.

5.      What is Tanzania doing right in terms of its energy sector?
Tanzania is doing the activities listed below in the development of the energy sectors:

  • Tanzania is developing power generation plants from water falls like Stigler’s Gorge 2.2GW and natural gas plants;
  • National Utility has called tenders to develop 200MW wind farms and 150MW solar plants;
  • Solar technologies have been exempted from taxes to enable off-grid rural communities to access sustainable technologies that have resulted installation of more than 60MW of solar home systems.
  • Water supply

Tanzania has adapted the use of gravity and solar photovoltaic technologies for community water supplies. The government has turned to the gravity and solar energy after the uses of diesel and electricity from the grid have failed.

6.      What surprises you about these sectors?
Some decision makers do not yet understand the potential of isolated renewable energy systems like mini-grids.      

It was a tough way to change the mind-set of the planners to accept the use of solar photovoltaic for water pumping. Still there are areas that have potential for the use of wind power for water pumping but not much is being done to exploit the free energy of wind.

7.      What are you most looking forward to at African Utility Week?
I am looking forward to see that African decision makers are sensitized on the potentials of the renewable energies.

8.      Anything you would like to add?
African leaders should make renewable energy priority rather than continue using conventional unsustainable energy technologies.

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