Rwanda saves about $900,000 (about Rwf730 million) per year on at least 30,000 wooden electricity transmission poles that it used to buy every year, figures from Electricity Access Rollout Programme (EARP) show.
In addition to money that was saved on the unit cost of a pole (about $30), the country now saves around $640,000 (about Rwf525 million) on imports annually.
The Coordinator of EARP, Clementine Umugwaneza, said since June 2014, Rwanda Energy Group (REG) purchases, either directly or through their contractors, more than 80,000 wooden poles from a local company, New Forests Company (NFC) Ltd.
The unit price per pole ranges between $74 (about Rwf60,000) and $95 (78,000)
Umugwaneza told The New Times that the average cost for a wooden pole is Rwf70,000, noting that the cost varies depending on the type and other technical specifications of the pole.
Before the NFC plant started production works in February 2014, Umugwaneza said, around 103,000 poles were imported into the country between 2011 and 2014, with the unit price per pole ranging from $105 and $120.
Joseph Munyarukaza, the corporate social responsibility programme manager at NFC, told The New Times that since the company started production, it has supplied about 115,000 poles.
The poles are supplied to Rwanda Energy Group (REG), while others are exported to Tanzania, according to Munyarukaza.
The current annual pole demand in Rwanda, Munyarukaza said, is 70,000. The Nyanza District-based NFC plant has production capacity of 120,000 poles per year.
Before the local plant started operations, electricity poles were imported from Uganda or South Africa.
Munyarukaza said by using chromium, copper and arsenate (CCA), all poles are expertly treated to meet international standards where NFRL presently meets the highest regional CCA treated pole specifications.
“NFC is committed to treating our poles in ecologically responsible ways through careful supervision, risk mitigation systems and attention to detail at the pole plant,” he said.
The Director of Forestry Management Unit at Rwanda Natural Resources Authority (RNRA), Dismas Bakundukize, told The New Times that NFC pole production plant has created jobs for more than 300 Rwandans, and given value to forest woods.
He noted that there are other benefits, such as working with the residents through helping them to plant their own trees in the vicinity of Nyungwe National Park.
“Tree dealers supply the trees to NFC after buying them, from the communities,” he said, noting that NFC established a loan scheme to help residents plant trees and nurture them.
Rwanda Natural Resources Authority signed a long-term lease agreement (49 years) with NFC.
The implementation is in its early stages because, out of the 8,052 hectares leased forest cover (Nyungwe buffer zone), only 200 hectares have been harvested and replanted.
The Ministry of Infrastructure’s Rural Electrification Strategy of 2016 says access to electricity increased from 364,000 households in June 2012 to 590,000 (24 per cent of the total households in the country) by June 2016.
These efforts, the strategy states, have been led by the Electricity Access Rollout Programme.