Toward universal access to electricity

As the curtains slowly fall on 2017, Rwandans remain optimistic that government will deliver on its energy targets as was set out in the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS II) which ends next year.
Metal fabrication businesses are some of the productive sectors that have been prioritised in power supply under the new strategy, to achieve universal access to electricity by 2014. / File
Metal fabrication businesses are some of the productive sectors that have been prioritised in power supply under the new strategy, to achieve universal access to electricity by 2014. / File

As the curtains slowly fall on 2017, Rwandans remain optimistic that government will deliver on its energy targets as was set out in the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS II) which ends next year. The country set a very ambitious target of achieving 563MW power generation capacity in the EDPRS II blueprint. Presently, Rwanda’s total installed electricity generation capacity is below half of this figure at only 208MW.

However, the number of households connected to power increased to over 35 per cent this year, higher than 22 per cent at the beginning of the year. According to sector experts, these figures tell one story, “there is a lot of work to be done if Rwanda is to achieve its energy targets.”

Already, Rwanda Energy Group (REG) has unveiled a power roll out strategy that will ensure the country realises its power goals and connect all Rwandans to either the national grid or off-grid power sources. To achieve these objectives, it will require strong and public-private sector partnerships to move Rwanda towards a self-energy sufficient economy.

According to REG, more than 115,978 households will be connected on the national electricity grid and another 118,772 households are expected to access off-grid energy solutions by the end of next year.

The focus now should be to attract as many private players as possible to help boost both generation and distribution capacity, opined Eng Theogene Ndatumuremyi, a Kigali-based energy consultant

Ndatumuremyi said though the country did not record much in terms of power generation, government was able to lay down a concrete foundation that will enable it to expedite its power generation capacity in 2018, as well as increase access across the country.

“We should also not forget that REG reviewed its energy generation and supply targets and worked out a plan it will employ to achieve these targets going forward,” he added.

The seven-year roll out programme seeks to ensure universal access by 2024. However, the objective is to ensure 563MW installed power generation capacity by the end of next year.

Eng Ron Weiss, the REG chief executive, said the power utility targets to connect more than 70 per cent of the population in 2018 and all Rwandan households by 2024.

“We have made a new arrangement whereby we are harmonising our plan with the government’s plan of the next seven years,” Weiss is reported as saying. The official added that the utility will continue to improve its capacity, including financial reporting in all its activities.

“We are working on a three-year plan to build the company from one that is making losses to a profitable one,” he said.

According to EDPRS II and the rural electrification policy, government will continue to emphasise access to electricity by productive users as part of efforts to support socio-economic development across the country.

The idea is to ensure productive sectors, such as industries, have steady supply of affordable power. Currently, 2,934 productive users are connected to the national grid and the target for this year is to connect at least 331 new productive users by June 2018.

Improving distribution network

In a bid to ensure efficient and stable power supply, the utility has started on a project to expand and strengthen the electricity transmission network, according to officials.

Planned and ongoing projects to be implemented during this financial year include the construction of various transmission lines namely 220kV lines (237 kilometres), 110kV lines (141.2 kilometres), as well as a 30kV line of 60.6 kilometres. All these lines will be built together with their associated substations.

About 200 kilometres of old and overloaded power transmission (medium and low voltage) lines will be rehabilitated and strengthened, while a new Jabana-Mount Kigali-Gahanga high voltage transmission line and associated substations will be constructed. According to officials, the projects are expected to help improve electricity distribution and reduce losses and hence boost service delivery.

The utility also plans to install fault locators and testing vans as it moves to reduce the time taken to detect and address a network problem.

According to Energy Utility Corporation Limited, the objective is to improve transmission and distribution capabilities and ensure uninterrupted electricity supply.

Reactive power compensators will be installed to reduce power losses to achieve this target, while the Kigali distribution network will also be reinforced to meet the demand, according to the utility.

It also seeks to reduce the average percentage of thermal (in the energy mix) from 23 to 20 per cent. Equally, EUCL is expected to increase the annual revenue from sales from Rwf93 billion earned last year to Rwf102.5 billion going forward. This could mean more investment into power generation and distribution network across the country in 2018.

Other activities and projects by EUCL include conducting feasibility studies for the rehabilitation of Rwabuye fuel storage and carrying out awareness campaigns on the use of biogas, improved cooking stoves and liquefied petroleum gas for energy efficiency.

Other achievements in energy sector

Gishoma peat plant came to life early this year, adding more than 15MW to the national grid. This is a $39.2 million peat-fired power plant in Rusizi District.

Also, the construction of the Musanze-based hydropower plant was launched this year, and is expected to add at least 3.6 megawatts to the national grid on completion.

During the year, the energy group launched a nationwide campaign to upgrade most of the power stations to improve efficiency and reduce power leakages across the country.

Some of the stations that benefited from this campaign include Mukungwa hydropower station in Northern Province, which was upgraded from five megavolt amps (MVA) to 15MVA.

According to REG, more power stations will be upgraded in 2018, including Nyabihu and Rubavu substations, among others.

Power projects to watch in the New Year

There are various ongoing power projects which will significantly improve the country’s generation capacity when completed. They include the Hakan peat-to-power project that is expected to produce 80MW, the 80MW Rusumo hydropower plant and the 50MW Symbion methane gas power plant on Lake Kivu, among others.

In addition, exploration works for geothermal resources, and construction of eight small hydro power schemes are also expected to progress well going into the New Year.

More resources mobilised

Meanwhile, government stepped up its efforts to mobilise more resources for energy sector development.

A number of financial agreements with development partners were signed during the year, including the government of Rwanda and World Bank $48.9 million agreement to increase access to electricity through off-grid power sources.

The global lender also extended its first energy sector development policy operation financial support worth $125 million (about Rwf103 billion) to help boost the country’s capacity to generate and distribute power.

With more resources coming into the sector, the targets and roll out plan as outlined by REG will be within reach, a situation that will help power the economy to a middle-income status and spur industrial growth and job-creation.

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