Energy players seek subsidy on cooking gas accessories

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A gas store. Energy sector players want tax waiver on accessories. / Nadege Imbabazi

There is need for a tax waiver on all accessories required for the use of cooking gas so as to make it more affordable to Rwandans, players in the energy sector have said.

The Government waived tax on cooking gas itself back in 2012, to make it affordable, but the other appliances, including gas cooker, regulator, cables, and gas stoves are still taxed.

About 0.8 per cent of Rwandan households use cooking gas currently, according to estimates from Rwanda Energy Group (REG).

Oreste Niyonsaba, manager for clean cooking and biogas solutions at Energy Development Corporation Ltd (EDCL), which is a subsidiary of REG, told The New Times that a 12-kilogramme-gas cylinder used to cost between Rwf23,000 and 26,000 in 2012 but now is between Rwf9,600 and Rwf12,000.

The price reduction was a result of tax waiver on imported gas and cylinder.

In 2012, a kilogramme of imported gas cost between Rwf1,300 and Rwf1,600. But it reduced to between Rwf800 and Rwf1,000 currently due to tax incentive.

Niyonsaba said the move was in line with the Government’s policy to gradually reduce reliance on firewood and charcoal for fuel.

However, he said the 12-kilogramme-cylinder filled with gas, and its accessories, cost between Rwf96,000 and Rwf100,000, making the technology not affordable to many Rwandans.

Cooking gas benefits

For the subsequent purchase, the customer buys only gas to refill the cylinder, which is practically more efficient than charcoal.

“On average, a sack of charcoal costs between Rwf8,000 and Rwf10,000 on the market. Yet kilogrammes of gas (worth Rwf12,000 at most) cook meals that would otherwise be cooked by three sacks of charcoal worth at least Rwf24,000. That is scientifically proved,” Niyonsaba said.

“This means that cooking gas saves a half (50 per cent) of the money that would otherwise be spent on charcoal,” he said, adding that the gas cooks twice faster than charcoal, ensures hygiene and cleanliness anywhere it is used.

Niyonsaba said when one uses charcoal, the smoke it releases has effects on health unlike gas.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over four million people die prematurely every year from illness attributable to the household air pollution from cooking with solid fuels (wood, crop wastes, charcoal, coal and dung) in open fires and leaky stoves.

Niyonsaba called on the Government to waive taxes on any component that is needed for gas use to reduce its cost.

Methuselah Maniragaba, a resident of Kicukiro District, said he used cooking gas when he was employed as a cook previously and says it is efficient.

“The gas that I used to cook in three months, would at least reduce a half of the expenses that I would spend on charcoal,” he said, noting that gas cooks faster and ensures hygiene.

“A kilogramme of cooking gas is about Rwf800, which is a reasonable price,” he added.

However, the father of one said cooking gas accessories are still expensive, hence calling for subsidy on such equipment.

“At my home, we use at least charcoal worth about Rwf2,000 per week, yet for gas, we can use less than two kilogrammes. Gas is more efficient,” he said.

Safe Gas Rwanda brand manager Walda Keza Shaka told The New Times that the initial purchase of the equipment may be a little higher but subsequent refills are affordable.

“Safe Gas Rwanda has also created flexibility in terms of payment for the products through provision of options to pay in installments, which in essence increases its affordability,” she said.

The Head of LPG Business at Société Pétrolière Ltd (SP), Dieudonne Rumaragishyika, said there is need to set up a fund to support venerable people access cooking gas.

Public offices to adopt gas

Regarding the use of gas among public servants, he said, the initiative started from REG.

The approach used is to pay for the cost through three installments. He said that, under this approach, about 90 per cent of REG staff use cooking gas.

Last week, REG hosted a technical meeting that sought to eradicate the use of charcoal and firewood, especially among public servants.

The meeting, that included officials from Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), suggested a tax waiver on all the cooking gas accessories and subsidy.

Cooking gas is imported by various companies from Kenya and Tanzania. The importing companies have a storage capacity of 80,000 cubic metres, according to figures from REG.

The Director of Forest Research and Extension at Rwanda Natural Resources Authority (RNRA), Felix Rurangwa, told The New Times that gas helps people switch to a clean and safe cooking fuel, to avoid respiratory problems caused by smoke and other pollutants released by inefficient biomass burning in enclosed spaces.

It also releases women and children from the drudgery of collecting firewood and health problems associated with carrying heavy bundles for long distances.

Gas reduces pressure on forests, hence contributing to environmental protection.

Rurangwa noted that the current biomass energy use in the country consists of charcoal with 16 per cent of the Rwandans using charcoal while 83 per cent use firewood.

The average annual biomass supply is around two million metric tonnes, while the demand is around five million metric tonnes.

For cooking gas to be affordable and accessible to Rwandans, Rurangwa said, a subsidy scheme would work out as the bottles are expensive.

REG says no studies have yet been done to know the demand for gas countrywide.

According to the 2014 Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey (EICV4), currently, 83.3 per cent of Rwandan households use firewood and charcoal as cooking fuel.

Under the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy, fuel wood consumption is expected to reduce to 50 per cent by 2018.

“The remaining 50 per cent of Rwandans will be using gas, biogas or improved cooking stoves that are energy-efficient,’ Niyonsaba said.

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