Rwanda explores use of methane gas for cooking

The move of using methane gas for cooking could help reduce reliance on wood fuel from 80 per cent to 40 per cent. Net photo.

The Rwandan government is set to commission a study on the possibilities of using methane gas for cooking. 

The Government’s plan, which was disclosed at a meeting with development partners on Tuesday, is informed by the fact that most Rwandans still rely on wood fuel for cooking.

Officials at the Ministry of Environment said the move could help reduce reliance on wood fuel from 80 per cent to 40 per cent by 2024.

Overreliance on wood fuel constitutes a health concern, causing respiratory diseases due to air pollution.

According to the Ministry of Health, more than three million Rwandans suffer from respiratory problems every year, of which 13 per cent is caused by air pollution.

In 2017, deaths linked to poor air quality reached 12,000, the ministry says.

Over 9,040 deaths out of 12,000 were due to indoor air pollution and 2,960 due to ambient air pollution, statistics indicate.

Eng. Coletha Ruhamya, the Director-General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), said that exploring the possibilities of using methane gas for cooking was a timely intervention.

“We have identified sectors which stakeholders can put in their efforts to protect the environment and fight against climate change.

“Methane gas does not only provide electricity, it can be used for other purposes such as cooking as well. But we need a feasibility study for that and those who can implement the project,” she said.

She was speaking while presenting Rwanda’s action plan on combating global warming to development partners in Kigali.

The plan was developed by the Government of Rwanda as a country-driven climate action plan to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Rwanda ratified the Paris agreement in 2016.

Clean energy is one of the priorities of the action plan.

The Ministry of Environment says that if no substantive action is taken to mitigate global climate change, it is predicted that the average temperature in Rwanda will rise by 2.5°C by the middle of the century.

“It is Rwanda’s intention to promote initiatives that could help us switch from using wood and charcoal fuel to clean energy,” Ruhamya said.

According to Francis Gatare, the chief executive of Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board, Lake Kivu holds over 65 billion cubic metres of methane gas.

‘Demand for clean energy’

Government statistics show that wood fuel consumption, including charcoal, was estimated at 4.2 metric tonnes per year, in 2010.

With continued population growth and urbanisation, this consumption is expected to exceed 11 metric tonnes per year by 2030 if nothing is done, according to official estimates.

Rwanda plans to scale up use of cooking gas through tax incentives.

According the Ministry of Infrastructure, the demand for LPG is set to rise to more than 240,000 tonnes by 2024, from the current 10,000 tonnes.

Under the action plan, Rwanda also intends to increase the diffusion of improved cook stoves and reach 100 per cent of all households in 2030.

Other initiatives include the installation of 35, 000 domestic biogas digesters and 15 institutional biogas digesters annually by 2030.

UNDP Rwanda Country Director, Stephen Rodrigues, said the proposal to turn methane gas into cooking gas was a good idea.

“We are trying to partner with the Government to move to clean cooking solutions. Now people are using biomass by cutting forests and that is not healthy for the environment and for people because they smoke air while cooking which causes respiratory diseases and people die,” he said.

The effort is geared at ensuring that we have the expertise, research and analysis that enables to extract methane gas properly, he noted.

He added that UNDP is working with Rwanda to set up a national green investment plan.

“We are working on forest restoration and other programmes for green growth and climate resilience,” he said.

Over the last five years, UNDP has injected over $20 million in protecting environment in Rwanda.

 The Minister for Environment, Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, said the action plan touches all sectors of the economy.

“To ensure all sectors play their rightful role in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement, we are working with them to prepare bankable project proposals.

“Meeting development partners is an opportunity to identify potential areas of cooperation that can be scaled up and replicated as well as pinpoint those areas which require renewed focus,” she said.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com