By ALEX NGARAMBE | The EastAfrican
Faced with a high cost of energy, Rwanda is planning to import 400MW of electricity from Ethiopia in the medium term.
Kigali is exploring other avenues that will enable it achieve its ambitious second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS II) target of 70 per cent access rate to energy and an electricity generation capacity of 563MW by 2017.
For it to achieve its desired access rate, the government is planning to supply 1.7 million customers with electricity. Currently, the country’s total energy generation stands at 119MW.
Rwanda has designed a five-year electricity strategic plan in which it projects to deliver about 232MW of hydropower, 310MW geothermal power and 300MW from methane gas, as well as strengthen and expand transmission lines by an additional 2,100km.
Hydropower projects in the pipeline include Rusumo falls, Rusizi III and Nyabarongo II.
However, because most of them are in their infancy, the rising demand for energy will partly be met through significant energy imports, which is cheaper than generating energy from costly thermal projects.
Currently, 50 per cent of Rwanda’s energy is generated via thermal means which is expensive largely due to fuel costs.
Fuel — in particular diesel and heavy fuel oils — account for approximately 40 per cent of the country’s 119MW installed energy capacity. Hydropower accounts for 59 per cent and methane gas 1 per cent.
Last year, for example, the energy sector requested the government for Rwf32 billion ($46.7 million) for buying fuel to be used in thermal power generation but received only half the amount.
This cost is passed on to consumers, hence Rwandans pay higher per unit cost for power than their neighbours in the region.
Rwanda’s current generation portfolio stands at $0.24/kWh compared with Kenya’s $0.15/ kWh, Uganda’s $0.17/kWh and Tanzania’s $0.05/kWh.
Rwanda’s energy deficit is hampering its plan to achieve a middle income status by 2020 by empowering the private sector.
As part of plans to boost its capacity, Rwanda has signed a memorandum of understanding with Ethiopia.
However, the expression of interest is not a guarantee that the flow of electricity from Ethiopia will be immediate, as Rwanda must first sort out infrastructure and regulatory challenges.
“For Rwanda to import energy from Ethiopia, it will also require a regional engagement, particularly with Uganda and Kenya, and joint regional energy sector planning, along with investment in a highly efficient grid infrastructure,” said Yohannes Hailu, an economic affairs officer and energy expert at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
Tom Rwahama, the regional energy projects coordinator at Ministry of Infrastructure said recently that Kigali expects to start getting 400MW by 2017.
Besides hydro, the Rwandan government is also investing in generating energy through peat and solid waste.
“Hydropower is cheaper thus the reason we are resorting to it and other sources of energy in order to bring down the tariffs for consumers,” said Jean Bosco Mugiraneza, the chief executive officer of Rwanda Energy Group Ltd.
The high cost of energy has affected the country’s competitiveness in industry and exports.
“Our exports will remain low because we don’t add value to our products and this is due to the lack of affordable energy to run our industries,” said Emmanuel Hategeka, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
Rwanda plans to develop its peat resources to generate about 200MW of power by 2017.
With regard to solid waste, it is estimated that Kigali city alone can produce around 450 tonnes per day of which between 300 and 350 tonnes is centrally collected.
A fraction of organic waste comes from households, restaurants, hotels and markets. Other types of solid waste available in the country include agricultural waste, livestock waste and water hyacinth.
It is estimated that 100 tonnes per day of raw municipal solid waste can produce 1MW using traditional thermal technologies.
With Kigali’s population expected to reach about 1.5 million by 2020, it is estimated that the waste collected will rise to about 1,000 tonnes per day.