Minister: Rwanda targets sufficient, affordable energy

Rwanda is on a strong growth path to success but has ambitions to achieve even more, especially in having sufficient, reliable and affordable energy, an official has said.
Kamayirese speaks during the launch of the report in Kigali yesterday. / Timothy Kisambira
Kamayirese speaks during the launch of the report in Kigali yesterday. / Timothy Kisambira

Rwanda is on a strong growth path to success but has ambitions to achieve even more, especially in having sufficient, reliable and affordable energy, an official has said.

The State Minister for energy, Germaine Kamayirese, said this in Kigali yesterday at the launch of a report on the electricity connectivity in the least developed countries.

The report, commissioned by the UN Conference on Trade and Development, indicates that the world’s 47 least developed countries (LDCs) are falling far behind the rest of the developing world in terms of getting power to homes and businesses.

The report, which is benchmarked on 2014 statistics, shows that by supplying affordable, reliable and abundant energy services to all other economic sectors and industries, the energy industry can help to realise its potential for increasing returns and fostering innovation and productivity, thereby contributing to economic structural transformation.

“Our target is to achieve universal access by 2024, with 52 per cent on-grid and 48 percent off-grid,” the minister said.

“However, we must also look beyond households towards transformational energy access. It is through expanding and improving access for productive users that the greater development progress can be made.

“Productive use of energy enables industry and commerce to thrive – increasing productivity, creating jobs, building markets and encouraging entrepreneurship. Without transformational energy access, the ambitions that we have will not be met.”

Rwanda on a big push

Rwanda targets 100 per cent electricity access for productive users by 2024, up from the current 69 per cent.

Access to energy, the minister reiterated, is central to achieving the nation’s development agenda.

At the household level, she said, the country made great strides, with access to electricity now at 41 per cent, up from nine per cent in 2010. In particular, off-grid access was increased from less than one per cent two years ago to more than 11 per cent currently.

Presenting the report, Matfobhi Riba, a UNCTAD official, said the statistics from 2014 do not capture what has happened between then and now.

“You will not get structural transformation without energy. And it is not just any type of energy but transformational energy,” Riba said. “And our focus being on structural transformation, there needs to be equal focus on productive uses.”

Riba said 42 per cent of firms in LDCs identify electricity as a major constraint; three-quarters experience an average of 10 outages each month, “lasting five hours each,” and this is a major constraint to what kind of enterprises people go into.”

In addition, seven per cent revenue is lost because of outages, Riba added.

Among others, she noted, energy must be affordable for people to really benefit from its use, adding that transformational energy access is especially important for rural development in LDCs as rural development is critical to poverty eradication.

Josephine Malonza, an architect and a lecturer at University of Rwanda, told The New Times that the construction sector consumes up to 40 per cent of the national energy. In the US, she said, buildings alone consume 47.6 per cent – nearly half of all energy produced and nearly half of the carbon emissions in the country.

She said: “In Rwanda, there is evident boom in the construction sector, hence the need to look closely the issue of energy. One promising trajectory is the growing interest in production and use of renewable energy sources such as biogas, methane, solar, and others, even in rural areas.”

The report shows that LDCs have traditionally displayed a dualistic power generation mix, relying on combustible fuel generation (overwhelmingly from fossil fuels) and hydroelectric power generation for nearly all their electric energy needs.

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