The twelfth National Leadership Retreat is around the corner. High on the agenda could be brainstorming on how the country fast-tracks an ambitious effort to achieve energy targets.
During the retreat, two years ago, leaders set the energy targets at 563 megawatts by 2018, revising downwards an earlier targets 1,000 megawatts within the same timeframe.
At the time the target was set, the country had less than a hundred megawatts on national grid. It has gone up to 153 megawatts currently.
The energy target, under the framework of the medium-term development blueprint – EDPRII – is envisaged to connect 70 per cent of the population by 2018, which translates to 1,708,000 households.
Of these, 48 per cent would be connected on grid while 22 per cent through off grid connections.
With three years left to the 2018 deadline, questions have been raised on whether the government will achieve the targets considering that, today, accessibility stands at just 17 per cent.
Last Friday, minutes from a Cabinet meeting indicated that ministers were briefed that preparations for the retreat were in advanced stages.
However, no official date has been announced as of when the retreat will commence yet.
At the retreat, Cabinet ministers, ambassadors, governors, mayors, heads of key government agencies, senior members of the legislature and judiciary, and representatives of the private sector, are expected to chart a way of ensuring that several targets are achieved to ensure the country remains on track.
In a recent field study conducted by senators, concerns were raised on whether the government will indeed achieve its energy targets, mainly considering the alleged mismanagement and delays to complete the existing power projects.
One of the cases that senators dwelt on is the Kalisimbi Geothermal Project that stalled after government spent Rwf22 billion on the project that was never realised.
The situation of Kalisimbi Geothermal Project also featured in the Ombudsman’s annual report presented to Parliament last year.
No cause for alarm
Although the issues may sound alarming, government has spent much time in putting feasible strategies in place to ensure that production can shoot up tremendously as well as improve the management of energy projects.
Among such strategies include the restructuring of the energy utility to Rwanda Energy Group and attracting new investors in clean and renewable energy such as Gigawatt Global that has already added 8.5 megawatts to the national grid.
In an interview, last week, the Minister for Infrastructure, James Musoni, acknowledged that the issues raised by the Senate were valid although there were plans to address them.
Musoni believes that the set target of 563 megawatts and 70 per cent connectivity by 2018 will be achieved.
“When you look at the figures, you realise there is a clear need to step up our efforts to achieve our targets. However, a lot has been done and now we are at the level of realisation and I am very hopeful we are going to realise our target,” the minister said.
He added that this year, they will strive to add at least 70 megawatts on the national grid, bringing it to 223 megawatts “but we have projects that will commence this year with a capacity of producing 300 megawatts, which gives us hope that we will achieve our targets.”
The envisaged 70 megawatts are expected to come from different sources, including Kivuwatt that is expected to generate 25 megawatts by May, Gishoma Peat Power Plant that will generate 15 megawatts by July, and additional 30 megawatts to be imported from Kenya.
According to the minister, the construction of the transmission lines connecting Rwanda to Uganda will be done by September, meaning that by October, the country will have the 70 megawatts on the national grid.
Major projects expected to take shape this year, according to Musoni, include Rusumo Hydropower project that will produce 89 megawatts and is expected to be completed by mid 2018, Nyabarongo II Hydro power project to generate 120 megawatts, Hakan Peat project to generate 80 megawatts, Methane gas project to generate 50 megawatts by Symbion Limited.
“These projects give us hope but still the senators’ concerns are valid, there are some micro-hydro power plants that are not or are poorly functioning, as government we have decided to privatise some of these projects,” said Musoni.
The issue of failing micro hydro-power plants has been a constant topic in the corridors of Parliament following concerns raised by the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last year.
The six micro hydro power plants that have since drawn lawmakers’ attention are Mukungwa, expected to produce 2.5 MW; Nshili 400 KW, Nyabahanga 200 KW, Gashashi 200 KW, Janja 200 KW and Nyirabuhombohombo 500 KW.
The construction of the projects commenced in 2006 but to to-date, none of them has produced power at its optimal capacity.
According to Musoni, privatisation of the plants is in its last stages, a process that is being handled by Rwanda Development Board.
“Next month, we expect to sign an agreement with buyers but, still, we will put up a regulatory framework for monitoring how the privatised plants are managed and how they are performing,” said Musoni.
“We will as well have connections with our neighbouring countries. For instance, Ethiopia agreed to sell 400 megawatts to Rwanda but we opt more for home generated power which is more sustainable.”
Concerns before Senate
Meanwhile, senators also expressed concerns over how energy projects are negotiated and contracts drafted mainly referring to the failed Kalisimbi Geothermal and the micro hydro power plants.
Musoni attributed the problem to low capacity of the people that negotiate the deals and said the government has since embarked on hiring foreign experts with the skills to negotiate and draft energy related contracts.
He cited the $23.7-million Rwamagana solar plant that is now generating 8.5 megawatts as one of the effective deals negotiated with the help of experts from Africa Governance Initiative, for which former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is patron.
Rwanda may have the bank of power as Musoni says, but the country may as well face the problem of connecting households to the grid to also achieve the 70 per cent accessibility.
According to the minister, by June, accessibility will be standing at 23 per cent (an equivalent of about 500,000 households).
“We want to add 25 per cent before the end of the year, that means an average of 600,000 households. For this to happen we need $900 million, part of this will come from the national budget while another part will come from different financiers,” he said.
However, the minister noted that as long as people are not living in organised settlements, it will be hard to connect them if they are dispersed.