Ensuring adequate energy is crucial to the acceleration of economic growth. And as we usher in the year 2012, all indications are positive for the energy sector in Rwanda.
One of the indicators is the Kivuwatt methane project in Kibuye, which is already underway and is expected to start producing an initial 25 MW of electricity by July 2012. This will increase Rwanda’s installed capacity by 40 per cent before eventually producing 100 MW.
Rwanda has significant local energy resources which, other than methane gas, include geothermal and hydro power. The untapped resources are estimated to amount to 1,200 MW, most of which has not been exploited.
The threshold set in the 2008-2012 Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) was to increase power generation to 130 MW by 2012 through investments in hydropower and methane gas-to-electricity projects, including new and renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind.
However, recently revised Government targets are to develop over 1,000 MW generating capacity by 2017 and connect 50 per cent of the population to electricity by the same year.
Currently, 14 per cent of the population has access to electricity, with a significant proportion of the population, over 90 per cent, relying on biomass for their energy needs. Biomass refers to organic matter, such as wood, used as fuel.
To make amends for the high biomass utilisation by the majority of the population, Rwanda has made some commendable efforts in providing 60 per cent of households countrywide with improved stoves. As stated in the National Energy Policy and Strategy, this derives from the recognition that community involvement is a priority in developing energy resources. Sustainable biomass utilisation and a green and low carbon development in electricity generation have been emphasised under the Energy Policy and Strategy.
Clean energy, such as solar power has gained a foothold in Rwanda with a modest 250 kW already in the national grid with a further 750 KW to be developed.
Solar energy has, however, over the decades been utilised to provide cheap and sustainable electricity for schools, churches and households in rural areas, mainly courtesy of local and international organisations.
According to the State Minister for Energy and Water, drilling for exploration of geothermal energy were set to commence by early this year in identified areas around Mt Karisimbi.
Geothermal energy is expected to contribute 300 MW to the national grid by 2017. Other identified sites for geothermal exploitation include Gisenyi, Kinigi and Bugarama.
Some of the major energy projects underway include the Nyabarongo hydropower plant to be located in Muhanga and Ngororero Districts with an expected power generation capacity of 27.5 MW by early 2014.
Rwanda is also set to benefit from participation in regional hydropower projects. These include the 63 MW Rusumo project that has been a collaborative effort with Burundi and Tanzania expected to be complete in 2015.
Others are the 145 MW Rusizi III project being developed in collaboration with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi with completion set for 2016.