MPs deliberate viability of mini hydro power plants

MPs follow the presentation of the report by Odette Uwamariya, the vice-president of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Economy and Trade at Parliamentary Buildings in Kimihurura yesterday. Sam Ngendahimana.

The plan to connect all Rwandans to electricity by 2024 has made some progress but a number of challenges must be addressed if this target is to be realized, Members of Parliament heard yesterday.

The remarks were made by members of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Economy and Trade while presenting their report from a fact finding mission to nine districts to assess the progress of 16 mini hydro energy plants that were privatized in 2015.

The handover was brokered in a deal that saw investors seize an opportunity to invest billions in generating hydro power while the government agreed to purchase the electricity directly from them, once it has been generated.

The vice president of the committee; Odette Uwamariya said that although 12 of the 16 plants that they visited were found operating well, they were still facing some serious challenges that continue to block their potential to do better.

The challenges

For instance, Uwamariya cited the issue of poor infrastructure like roads and bridges in rural areas that continues to make access to these areas impossible in some cases.

“In Nyabihu district, we saw Nyamyotsi I and Nyamyotsi II hydro plants which are difficult to access because there are no bridges and roads connecting either of them. Transportation of equipment to this plant is very complicated and it is slowing down progress,” she said.

Uwamariya also cited challenges regarding old equipment that needs to be replaced to give the power plants an opportunity to operate to full capacity.

She also cited the failure by Rwanda Energy Group (REG) to pay the investors on time (for the electricity supplied) which continues to stall the progress of some of the projects yet most of them must service bank loans and pay taxes on time.

“In general, the commission found out that 12 hydro power stations were found to be well functioning but they have potential to do much better. We still have issues like lack of enough water, old equipment that needs replacement, lack of enough information on electricity preservation, inaccessible high altitude homes,” she said.

Uwamariya also pointed out the issue of not involving enough the districts in the supervision of the electrification projects in their jurisdictions.

“We were told in several areas that the inability to involve district authorities in putting together these projects makes it difficult to supervise and in the end affects evaluation district Imihigo performance contracts,” she said.

In his submission, MP Francis Karemera said that the issue of the failure by some of the plants to operate stemmed from contractual disagreements.

“Some of these plants were built with contracts stating that the Ministry of infrastructure would for example construct roads, put in place transmission lines but when they look at the energy that the plant will be providing, the government doesn’t feel that it is enough for them to invest in say a road. I think the Ministry needs to review,” he said. 

MP Ignatienne Nyirarukundo told the committee that narrowing the scope down to energy plants that were handed to investors did not provide the picture required on where Rwandans stood in terms of access to electricity.

“I feel that they should have visited both the private and government run energy plants and that way we would have had a clearer picture than what we got today,” she said.

To date, 51 percent of the population have access to electricity. Of the 51 percent, 37 percent use on-grid electricity, while 14 percent use off-grid systems like solar power.

According to the Rwanda Energy Group (REG), by 2024, 52 percent are expected to use on-grid power while 48 percent will be using solar power.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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