The Ministry of Environment has urged the private sector to tap into business opportunities that offer alternatives to charcoal and firewood use as the Government targets to reduce the number of wood fuel users to less than 42 per cent in the next five years.
According to Vincent Biruta, the Minister for Environment, besides cooking gas, there are other business opportunities in aspects such as producing briquettes and pellets, biogas and others as an alternative fuel to charcoal and firewood use.
Currently, the main businesses in alternative sources of fuel are mostly Liquefied Cooking Gas, however experts say that there are many different alternatives apart from LPG.
The massive use of wood fuel leads to deforestation yet forests play a big role in managing air pollution by absorbing polluted air.
Dependency on charcoal and firewood use also lead to respiratory diseases that are increasingly becoming popular worldwide.
“We are seeking more partnership with private investors to reduce wood fuel use which is still being used at high percentage. Those who use firewood are about 80 per cent of the whole population and those using charcoal are over 16 per cent. In partnership with the Ministry of Infrastructure, the use of cooking gas has been increasing steadily but more alternatives need investment to ensure more Rwandans abandon wood fuel use,” he said.
Since 2016, he said, imported cooking gas has tripled as the number of users keep increasing.
Over 2,808.43 tonnes of cooking gas was imported in 2016.
“There are so many selling and gas filling points for cooking gas and it is expanding to rural areas for easy access. As cooking gas demand increases, the more we will need to work with more private investors. For instance, an additional gas filling station was recently launched in Musanze District,”
Other alternatives we want to focus on include briquettes and pellets because they have not reached a large section of the population and the production is not yet at large scale. All private sector investments will help reduce wood fuel users to about 42 per cent in five ahead” he noted.
He added that while transiting from wood fuel, modern cookstoves should also be embraced to cut down on the amount of wood used and reduce air pollution caused by charcoal and firewood burning.
Scaling up briquettes use
Minister Biruta said that government will coordinate all efforts from private sector to ensure that, “the target to save forests is met and alternatives charcoal and firewood use reach more Rwandans.”
Government targets to have up to 30 per cent forest cover across the country.
The official said that there are plans to scale up the use of briquettes use in the country by starting large scale users of wood fuel such as police and military camps, prisons, schools, hotels and others.
“The alternative fuel to wood fuel such as cooking gas, briquettes and pellets have not yet spread everywhere as we seek. We are ready to support and fund projects with plans to scale up such alternatives. We have cases of briquettes users including prisons where 80 per cent of cooking fuel is briquettes and biogas,” he said.
He said that considering that briquettes and pellets use is still low, it calls for continued working with the private sector to scale up the use.
While landfills also emit gas such as methane gas into the air, Biruta said that there are plans to turn waste from landfills such as Nduba dumpsite into different energy forms including methane gas production, manure and briquettes as well as other products from solid waste.
“We are looking at turning waste from landfills into different products such as briquettes that can be used as fuel for cooking. We want to reach to the level of separating soft and solid waste at sources of collection,” he said.