Government has adopted digital technologies in the power distribution system as it increasingly looks for ways of how to efficiently respond to the country’s power demands, the Minister of State for Energy, Water and Sanitation said on Tuesday.
Germaine Kamayirese said that Rwanda has started embracing smart grid technology in the energy sector – an electricity supply network that uses digital communication technology to detect and react to local changes in usage.
She was speaking at the third Africa Smart Grid Forum in Kigali on Tuesday.
In real terms, smart grid incorporates new networking technology, including sensors and controls that make it possible to monitor electricity use in real time and make automatic changes that reduce energy waste.
“Currently, we have introduced smart grid technologies by installing the fibre optic to all constructed high voltage transmission lines and many of our power generation plants as well as advanced metering infrastructure to monitor losses in the network and improve revenue collection,” Kamayirese said.
This, the minister added, has enabled the country to consistently monitor outages duration and frequency levels.
Despite this pace of adoption of technologies in energy sector, the country’s energy sector continues to face several challenges as many people still don’t have access.
More than 50 per cent of the population have no access to electricity, but the country has an ambitious target to achieve 100 per cent coverage by 2024.
Even those that are connected to the grid, often times they face power outages due to the fact that utility companies run systems that sometimes don’t have the ability to detect how power is efficiently distributed.
Power lost through the distribution lines in Rwanda is estimated to be well below 20 per cent.
Generally, there are more than 600 million people with no access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa, while millions others are connected to an unreliable grid that does not meet their daily energy service needs.
Experts believe that integrating smart grid technologies could help countries like Rwanda achieve efficiency in energy sector, reduce power outages, and reduce energy waste.
According to Claude Koutoua, the President of Africa Electrotechnical Standardisation Commission (AFSEC), a continental body charged with creating awareness on new smart grid technologies and its associated standards, a smarter electricity grid could fundamentally change the way people pay for and manage their electricity use.
At the same time, he said, the technology could help reduce demand, save money, and improve reliability and efficiency.
Koutoua is one of the experts who strongly believe that increased investment in smart grids can help African utilities build a vibrant energy sector, key to driving economic activity.
Philippe Niyongabo, an energy expert at the African Union Commission (AUC), agrees, highlighting that adopting smart grids can enable countries in Africa to fully exploit their resources.
“Africa is endowed with enormous energy resources both in terms of renewable and non-renewable energy sources. Smart grid technologies provide an opportunity to convert these resources into reliable, efficient and sustainable energy services,” he said.
In turn, he added, this can stimulate productive sectors, trade and services as well as enhance the quality of life of the population.