Excessive power loss is affecting electrification target - senators

Senators have raised concerns over the quantity of electricity that is lost before it gets to subscribers, saying that this is frustrating the country’s ambitions to have 100 per cent of Rwandan homes accessing electricity by 2024.
The government wants to connect every household in the country to electricity by 2024. File.
The government wants to connect every household in the country to electricity by 2024. File.

Senators have raised concerns over the quantity of electricity that is lost before it gets to subscribers, saying that this is frustrating the country’s ambitions to have 100 per cent of Rwandan homes accessing electricity by 2024.

A report by the Senatorial Standing Committee on Economic Development and Finance indicates that Rwanda loses 23 per cent of its total installed capacity of electricity to leakages and poor energy infrastructure.

The report, which was tabled before the senates plenary session on Wednesday, was based on a tour by the committee, which covered 18 of the 30 districts which was aimed at examining the progress toward Rwanda’s electrification target.

In 2010, the Government had planned to generate 563MW which would connect 70% of households by 2017 but the target was not realised as planned due to several factors, including stalled interconnection lines from Ethiopia through Kenya and Uganda to Rwanda, according to the report.

Generation capacity is only at 208.6MW, representing 33 per cent of the intended target, but government is optimistic that the several projects in progress and efforts to embrace off-grid solutions like solar, will deliver the 100 per cent target in 2024.

Other hindrances to Rwanda’s energy targets, according to the committee’s report, include substations which were not built, scattered community settlements, and old transmission lines and related electricity infrastructure (which also cause power loss).

“Public bias towards embracing off-grid energy solutions is another problem where some wrongly assume that on-grid power is better,” reads part of the report.

The committee also faulted some utility distributers for defying the government’s directive to connect freely households within 37 metres of electricity lines.

Jacqueline Muhongayire, the chairperson of the committee said, the 23 per cent energy loss is such a significant volume which, if sorted, would contribute towards achieving the distribution targets.

“Some electricity transmission lines are old and in poor state and we cannot ignore the fact that we have scattered settlements that require transporting electricity for long distance between connections,” she said.

It is important that responsible organs work together toend electricity loss, she added.

Celestin Sebuhoro, the vice-chairperson of the committee, noted that, “the loss is mainly caused by technical faults, which require serious overhaul for the government to deliver on its energy targets.”

There was a chorus of concerns on the floor of the Upper House with various senators asking why government—through responsible utility organs—is not doing enough to minimise power losses and subsequently scale up electricity connections.

Senator Perrine Mukankusi asked if there are “tangible measures in place to close the gap.

According to Jean Claude Kalisa, the Managing Director of Energy Utility Corporation Limited (EUCL), there are a number of ongoing measures to reduce the power loss through reinforcing and improving transmission and distribution infrastructure.

In addition, introduction of smart meters, among other initiatives, will help to monitor and intervene where a leakage is detected.

“In fact, power loss has since last year been reduced to 21 per cent from 23 per cent and we are doing everything possible to reduce it further. We hope that by next year we would have reduced that leakage down to 20 per cent,” Kalisa told The New Times in a subsequent interview.

“Power loss is not unique to Rwanda. It happens everywhere even in developed countries. Our long term target is to at least fit into normal standards of losing about 10 to 12 per cent of the electricity we produce. But this requires huge investments which we are working on right now,” he added.

In a video message, aired during the plenary session, Germaine Kamayirase, the State Minister for Energy, Water and Sanitation, told the lawmakers that government is “still in negotiations to deliver interconnection lines from the neighbouring states which will significantly improve the electrification levels.”

The documentary also shows some citizens complaining that there are some transmission lines in rural areas, which were put in place but never delivered electricity while some proprietors of upcountry based industries such as Imana Steels are also complaining that they do not have enough electricity to run their machinery.

Besides insufficient electricity, these industrialists are complaining that they are not getting similar tariffs like the rest of the medium industries.

Effective January 1, 2017, electricity tariffs were revised, with households that consume not more than 15 kilowatts per month paying Rwf89 per unit, down from Rwf182, translating into a 51 per cent deduction from the standard cost.

On the other hand, people whose power consumption is between 15 kilowatts and 50 kilowatts per month, their price range remained at Rwf182, while those with consumption beyond 50 kilowatts per month pay Rwf112 from Rwf119 per unit.

In the industry services, consumers with large industries are required to pay Rwf83 per kilowatts, those with medium industries Rwf90 per kilowatts and the small industries Rwf126 per kilowatts.

 

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