There is a solution to Rwanda's energy conundrum

Rwanda has written a new chapter; one of commitment to leadership, economic development, eradication of poverty – and all the success have come against all odds of doubt.

Rwanda has written a new chapter; one of commitment to leadership, economic development, eradication of poverty – and all the success have come against all odds of doubt. 

But today as the country rises to new heights, challenges remain.

I will attempt to offer a solution to one of the most pressing issues Rwanda is facing: ‘Energy’.

This proposition is from a standpoint of an observer and not an expert. It is my hope that someone more technical would use this idea to construct a detailed proposal with numbers to ground this idea.

To begin with a historical context, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change asked all nations to commit to reducing the emission of carbon dioxide and other green house gases into the atmosphere.

But developed nations rely heavily on fossil fuel and coal to power industries and movefreights across the oceans. This dependency has led nations and corporations to extract fuel without remorse to earth and environment with consequences felt across all ecosystems.

Rwanda would benefit more by transitioning to renewable energy than relying on hydro and natural gas power. By adopting solar and wind energy, Rwanda would create jobs for millions of Rwandans; boost the economy, hence giving Rwanda extra flow of money from trading carbon credit while preserving the environment.

Rwanda should choose a path to renewable energy—although nuclear is the best other alternative, Rwanda does not have the technology to generate nuclear energy.

Even if Rwanda were ready to develop it despite the international laws and regulations, nuclear energy poses a great danger especially, Rwanda being located in a volcanic region. Nuclear energy for Rwanda in my opinion is a no go option.

In the past, nuclear catastrophes such 1986 Chernobyl nuclear explosion in Ukraine and, more recently the Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, left these areas with doses of radiation in the air, soil, rocks making it inhabitable for decades.

Most of Rwanda’s electrical energy comes from hydropower and much is expected from the methane gas deposits in Lake Kivu. The production is so small that most of the country is not electrified.

It comes with urgency of time that Rwanda exploits methane gas— God forbid, if the limnic eruption could happened; as was in the case for Lake Nyos in 1986 in Cameroon, the estimation for Lake Kivu could cost close to two million lives and livestock.

As for hydropower, this technology is outdated and is also another serious danger to the ecosystem. In fact, the U.S.A is demolishing most of its dams as they cause harm to rivers, decrease nutrients and river temperature. What is clear, the technology Rwanda is using to produce power is not efficient to meet the country’s demand.

In the absence of better alternatives, hydropower remains the best evil Rwanda can rely on — but there is a better choice: I will begin with the myth surrounding solar energy: it is widely believed that harvesting solar energy requires a lot of space, in which case it were true, Rwanda would suffer land shortages for a country whose population tops 472.5 people per square kilometre.

The technology we have today in the solar industry is so advanced such that storage of power is no longer an issue as it used to be; and new solar panels are made with solar cells capable of making solar energy competitive with other energy sources.

Other countries have made tremendous progress in the renewable energy industry. Solar energy is Germany’s fastest growing industry creating more jobs than automobile and engineering together.

Should Rwanda adopt solar energy to curb the high demand that comes with the cost of development and growing population, it would benefit in the following ways:

Rwanda would attract investors across the world in addition to creating jobs for millions of Rwandans who can’t find employment.

More streets would be lit, forests would be preserved as people would use solar power for cooking energy but, most importantly, manufacturing in Rwanda would boom following the reduction of price of electricity.

Development would reach the very same people who hunger electricity in the rural areas.

Children would learn more, food would be preserved longer and businesses would prosper.

This is very possible to achieve if new regulations were put in place to enforce this initiative.

Another way is compelling all new and existing commercial buildings in Rwanda to install solar panels on the rooftop to harvest solar energy. This is critical, in fact very important for business owners to have a second source of power, that’s more reliable and free.

Hotels and schools must have solar water heaters to reduce electric consumption. All government and private hospitals too must install solar panels and water heaters to reduce dependency on electricity.

Streetlights could also be solar powered to reduce the demand on our electrical grid.

In Israel, solar water heaters are mandatory for all residences. If Rwanda imposed similar requirements for new and existing houses in town, it would reduce electrical consumption significantly while saving people money.

For an economy like Rwanda, reducing the cost of energy simply means more money in circulation.

Just to put solar energy in perspective, the sun produces enough energy in one hour that the whole world uses in one year. In order for Rwanda to encourage the transition to solar:

All imports of solar products should be tax-free and government should extend incentives and special treatment to solar companies investing in Rwanda.

The government could consider giving property tax break to people who install solar panels; although it might be too much to ask, Rwanda would benefit, as there is never enough energy for a developing nation.

Like solar, wind power has recorded innovations that only could have happened with time. In mid 1980’s wind turbine were producing a maximum of 50Kw compared to today where one windmill is capable of producing up to 1.5Mw, enough electricity to power a small town.

Some countries have pioneered these common good, so should Rwanda. By the year 2020, China is expected to produce 30Gw of wind power, enough to power 30 million Chinese households.

Rwanda is known for taking the lead in many areas such as IT, environment protection, and now with the greenest and the cleanest city on the continent— with the 8.5 megawatt at Agahozo-Shalom solar project, Rwanda can scale up this model and become energy independent. 

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