Umushyikirano: Were the 2017 energy resolutions implemented?

Mount Kigali power substation that was inaugurated on October 17 as part of efforts to scale up electricity generation. Nadege Imbabazi.

In December last year, the 15th National Umushyikirano Council convened in Kigali and, among things, discussed the National Strategy for Transformation, values for prosperity, and the youths as the drivers for transformation.

Umushyikirano urged all concerned organs to play a role in accelerating the implementation of the National Strategy for Transformation.

After the two-day deliberations, eight resolutions were drafted in various areas including health, economy and culture, among others.

Ahead this year’s edition of Umushyikirano, which is due December 13-14, The New Times is exploring the extent to which last year’s resolutions have been implemented.

Specifically, under the economy, it was resolved that public and private players strengthen collaboration to increase access to affordable electricity for households and businesses.

The Ministry of Infrastructure set a target of connecting 115,979 households to the electricity grid.

In December 2017, the number of people connected to the electricity grid was 755,788, according to statistics from the ministry.

The ministry told The New Times in an email that, as of October 2018, some 138,290 households had been connected to the grid, exceeding the target by 19 per cent.

On off-grid connectivity, while the ministry targeted to connect 97,142 households by end October 2018, only 61,546 households were connected, falling short of the target.

Connectivity to productive use areas and socio-economic facilities, including factories, market centres, milk collection centres, health centres were also catered for during the discussions.

In this context, the ministry noted, 234 productive use areas and socio-economic facilities were planned and 417 were added to a baseline of 3,206 of December 2017.

“This was 78 per cent higher than what was targeted,” says the ministry.

Two weeks ago, the East African Community (EAC) launched an energy security policy framework as it attempts to reduce electricity costs and ensure reliable supply.

It comes as the six-member bloc continues to grapple with high energy costs and unstable electricity supply to homes and its growing industrial sector.

Jean Baptiste Havugimana, the EAC Director for Productive Sectors, maintains the prevailing energy gaps call for decisive action.

Havugimana says that the regional average cost of energy at the grid is $15 cents, some $3 cents higher than in Ethiopia.

In August this year, the Government of Rwanda started implementing new electricity tariffs for the productive sector.

The cost of electricity for small industries reduced from Rwf126 per Kwh to 110 per Kwh, the Ministry of Infrastructure said, while for medium industries the cost reduced from Rwf90 per Kwh to Rwf87 per Kwh.

For large industries the cost reduced from Rwf83 to Rwf80 per Kwh.

Teddy Kaberuka, an economist, says the energy targets set during last year’s Umushyikirano were modest, which explains the overachievement.

“If you go to the rural areas, people need electricity. And that’s a need which keeps growing. I think this year this priority needs to be reset. The energy sector is a strategic sector which can unlock other sectors and that’s why prioritising the energy sector is a strategic decision,” he said.

Some steps, he said, were made but the country needs more investments in energy sector.

“If we are talking about the Made-in-Rwanda policy, for example, energy is a must for us to be competitive and lowering energy costs is very critical,” he added.

In October this year, Rwanda borrowed $269 million (Rwf237 billion) from the African Development Bank (AfDB) for investing in sustainable, affordable and reliable electricity services.

The loan was disbursed under the second phase of the Scale up Electricity Access Program (SEAPII), which is expected to increase on-grid access for households and productive usages, and increase off-grid access to renewable energy.

The programme aims to boost efforts to achieve universal electricity access by 2024.

Currently, 48.6 per cent of the population has access to electricity. Rwanda targets universal access to electricity by 2024.

The country produces 218 MW but targets 586MW by 2024, according to Rwanda Energy Group (REG).

The Private Sector Federation (PSF) says that while private companies are participating in bridging the energy gap, more needs to be done.

The Chief Executive Officer of PSF, Stephen Ruzibiza says that 23 firms are involved in solar power generation.

“Some companies have invested in generation, both for direct or own consumption and sale to factories. The Special Economic Zone has a special line that at least allows for stable supply.  On cost, yes, there has been some reductions, but we think it should be reduced further.”

Emile Nsanzabaganwa, the General Manager of Kinazi Cassava Plant (KCP), said that, by and large, businesses are not complaining because electricity is available.

However, he says, government should reduce the cost further.

 “The electricity is available but we would be happy if the Government made it more affordable so that production is not a burden considering that we use a lot of power.”

The company is involved in the production of Cassava flour.

They currently spend up to Rwf5 million every month on electricity, which they anticipate could rise, given their plans to expand.

 “It is no secret that power is still expensive but at least it is available.” he said.