What stalled Gishoma Peat Power project?

Gishoma Peat Power Plant is one project that has featured in the news for all the wrong reasons in the recent past. No wonder it was one of the hot topics at the just concluded national leadership retreat with the country’s leadership frustrated by the errors associated with the project.
Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi and other officials tour the Gishoma Peat Power Plant in January. (Courtesy)
Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi and other officials tour the Gishoma Peat Power Plant in January. (Courtesy)

Gishoma Peat Power Plant is one project that has featured in the news for all the wrong reasons in the recent past. No wonder it was one of the hot topics at the just concluded national leadership retreat with the country’s leadership frustrated by the errors associated with the project.

But what really went wrong with this highly anticipated project located in Western Province’s Gishoma marshland?

The construction of the plant that was expected to generate 15 megawatts of electricity from peat started in 2010.

Five years down the road, a little progress has been made, with a couple of deadlines fixed and missed.

‘Shoddy work’

According to a recent report by the Senatorial Standing Committee on Economic Development and Finance- the issue was shoddy work right from the commencement of the project.

The senators said the plant’s design didn’t show how its structure will look like and the feasibility study of the plant didn’t have the right estimation of how much peat would be found in Gishoma marshland.

The project didn’t include electricity power grids from the plant to Cimerwa cement factory and the design didn’t include a power line to connect from Cimerwa to the national power grid to transmit the excess energy not used by the cement plant.

Also, the plant’s design lacked a water supply system while the plant would use water to be able to operate.

On peat supply, the senators reported that the plant wouldn’t have enough peat supply because Rwanda Investment- Group’s Peat Energy Company (PEC) did not supply the 134,000 tonnes needed by the plant.

“What is clear to us is that Gishoma Peat Power Plant project was not well designed,” Senators wrote in their report.

‘Something not right’

In an interview, Senator Perrine Mukankusi, the chairperson of the Senatorial Standing Committee on Economic Development and Finance-, said something was not right.

“It’s not yet clear why they did this. It just looks like poor planning,” she told The New Times yesterday.

At its completion, it was expected that Gishoma Peat Power Plant would have consumed $36 million (about Rwf24.8 billion) with the most part of the funding being a loan that the Rwanda Energy Group (Reg) secured from Bank of Kigali.

Cimerwa cement company would use between eight and 10 megawatts of the electricity from the 15 megawatts to be produced, with the remaining watts going to the national grid.

At the twelfth National Leadership Retreat, that concluded on Monday, President Kagame questioned the motive behind the errors in design.

“I don’t think that technically they didn’t know. There is something else in the mind; they didn’t pay attention, they didn’t care, maybe skipping that thing knowingly has some gains for the same person. It’s not that they didn’t know,” Kagame said.

During the discussion at the retreat, the Minister for Infrastructure, James Musoni, acknowledged that Gishoma Power Plant design was “a disaster” and that the ministry officials have since moved to rectify the mistakes.

According to Jean Bosco Mugiraneza, the chief executive of Reg, the water supply to Gishoma Peat Power Plant was delayed because technicians at the Energy Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA) first thought that the plant would use regular piped water.

However, they later learnt that water supplied by EWSA was rich in mineral elements, which would not be compatible with the plant.

That is how they ended up having to forge a water supply from special water streams whose water is different.

“The plant is almost ready apart from the water supply which we are still working on,” Mugiraneza told The New Times.

On inadequate peat, Mugiraneza said PEC committed to increase their peat production capacity after importing more capable machines, playing down reports that there is no enough peat in the marshland.

“They (PEC) need to increase the capacity to produce more peat; we need to invest- in getting more peat,” Mugiraneza said.

“There is a peat master plan study going on to map locations for peat deposits in different parts of the country. Whatever peat deposits that will be found nearby Gishoma will be extracted and supplied to the plant once Gishoma peat is exhausted,” he added.

Mugiraneza noted that the plant may be operational sometime between July and December.

The government targets to produce over 500 megawatts of electricity by 2018, up from the current 153 megawatts.

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