By Victoria A. Rocha | ECT Staff Writer
NRECA International Programs has signed an agreement with the Yemeni government to extend electric lines into areas without power and help residents establish new rural utilities, possibly following the cooperative model.
Financed by three agencies, the Rural Energy Access Project aims to fund a “significant expansion program of rural electric coverage” that will set a new precedent for community-owned and operated utilities, said an NRECA official.
A three-party consortium is financing the project: the World Bank, the Islamic Development Bank and the Agence Française de Développement.
Some 175,000 Yemeni households and businesses could benefit from the plan. Plans call for construction of nearly 1,305 miles of 33-kilovolt distribution line and 15 new substations in a dozen new service territories. Ongoing training and support will also be provided for the fledgling utilities.
For Yemen, the poorest Middle Eastern country with a 20 percent rural electrification rate, the co-op model would be a new way of doing business.
During the past three decades, the Yemen Public Electricity Corp. has “been the primary responsible party to extend access to electric service in urban and rural areas,” said Dan Waddle, senior vice president of NRECA International Programs. “REAP will develop a new modality of rural electric service by establishing new utilities in selected territories.”The new service territories will be situated in and around the central highlands of Yemen in a corridor extending from Sanaa, the capital, to Aden along the southern coast, “the most populous and productive area of the country,” said Waddle.
While the goal is independent electric utilities based on the cooperative business model, “that question still has to be resolved in each of these service territories, whether they’ll be institutions owned by local, administrative authorities, cooperatives, or perhaps stock-held corporations,” said Waddle.
To address cultural issues, two full-time consultants will work on “community communication and nothing else, all the time, for the whole project duration,” said Serge Khalife, NRECA’s newly hired Yemen country director.
“They will be local Yemenis, respected by their community, probably university professors, sheikhs [tribal elders], who are more open to inclusion and will try to emphasize the positives and the need to let go of attachments to smaller tribal communities.”
During the three decade-partnership, NRECA International Programs helped lay the groundwork for a national electrification strategy that established GARE and defined the dozen new service territories.
The contracts “represent the implementation of REAP that will put the electrification strategy into action,” said Waddle.