Skills gap, lack of funding affecting energy sector devt, new study indicates

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More needed to improve distribution network, new report. / File.

There is need for the country to create training programmes, including on-job training to ensure knowledge transfer by developers, and integrate energy sector training and planning across ministries.

According to a new report of the current situation in development of Rwanda’s power sector, respondents lauded the government for being very supportive to the sector, but noted the need for improving capacity of officials, particularly in areas of governance and skills to negotiate contracts. It also calls for public awareness on the benefits of renewable energy as interventions to ensure affordability of solar equipment and use of solar power grows.

“To reduce power losses, more investment is needed to improve power infrastructure, like transmission lines and upgrades,” the draft report on Understanding the Current Situation of Electricity Development in Rwanda survey by University of Colorado Denver, USA, indicates. Scholars from the university, Jennifer Kagan and Mark Safty, from the Wirth Chair in Sustainable Development department conducted the survey in June 2016.

Research purpose

The draft report was presented recently in Kigali. Over 30 key stakeholders from 28 organisations, including banks, private power developers, off-grid firms, academics, and government officials participated in the research.

The study sought to find out views of selected people and organisations about the current developments in the energy sector. Kagan said the researchers were impressed by the good job government institutions and private sector are doing despite the challenges facing the sector. However, the respondents were generally positive, saying the sector is growing though there are key challenges pulling it back.

Top challenges facing energy sector devt

According to the draft report released last month, the energy sector faces four key challenges affecting its growth and increased access by especially the rural people.

These are lack of funding particularly for power generation projects; low technical capacity; high power rates that affect affordability by rural people; and infrastructure challenges, particularly the poor transmission line that is leading to huge power losses.

Commenting on the report, Kagan was optimistic that the country will, with time grow its capacity and be able to solve most of the issues that come with low technical capacity. “These issues will be solved. Remember, there are always challenges but I think the government of Rwanda is committed to address the issues and further develop the sector to power its industrialisation goals,” she said in an interview.

Solar could be so important for now especially because rural areas still have low economic capacity and so solar could be a key solution for now. Kagan said renewable energy works perfectly for this group of users as they don’t require the power to light their homes and operate small enterprises.

Kagan noted that the issues of limited finance among local developers could be overcome by pooling of resources over time and partnerships to undertake projects as joint ventures.

Renewable energy gaps

According to the report, there is limited capacity and knowledge for renewable energy sector as well as a general reluctance by rural communities to accept off-grid solutions.

It adds that off-grid power providers are also struggling to handle renewable energy waste, like old batteries. “Off-grid energy provider have no facilities to deal with the waste and obsolete equipment,” it indicates.

Renewable power providers also called for a rigorous and deep environment impact assessment (EIA) to safeguard the environment and ensure the energy sector is developed in a sustainable manner.

The report also notes that off-grid power providers want government to focus more on improving efficiency in the dispatch and use of current power being generated and not dwell on increasing generation. They also said the process of tax refund on renewable energy equipment is slow which affects their operations and called for its improvement.