Energy experts from Burundi, DR Congo and Rwanda are meeting in Kigali to fine-tune details in agreements that will see a mega joint hydro power project on River Rusizi start delivering 147MW of electricity in the next four years.
The project, under the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL), a three-member regional economic bloc, is expected to cost $644 million (about Rwf432 billion), according to preliminary studies.
It is being managed by experts of the Energy of the Great Lakes (EGL), the energy component of the CEPGL, who are working to wrap up negotiations on outstanding issues with a joint US-Kenya corporation, IPS-Sithe Global.
On the sidelines of their meeting in Kigali, yesterday, EGL managing director Alphonse Muyumba Kalenge of DR Congo told reporters that the US-based Sithe Global and Industrial Promotion Services (Kenya) were selected pursuant to a competitive international bidding process.
Eng. Muyumba said energy experts from the three countries are on a firm mission to deliver power to the three countries.
“We are determined because there is a serious power deficit in our countries. The rate of electrification is so low,” Eng. Muyumba said.
“In Congo, it is about 9 per cent, in Burundi it is worse, between four and six per cent, and in Rwanda, it’s about 17 per cent.”
Feasibility studies started around 2007. Several companies were brought in, but negotiations with the two selected ones begun in 2012.
“We envisage that Rusizi III will start energy production by 2021. From now onwards we must first deal with the basics. Everything must be in order, such as the agreements that are likely to be signed in June between these investors and the member states. We are basically preparing the appropriate paperwork that will be signed by our ministers,” Eng. Muyumba said.
Equally energy sharing
On completion, the three countries will share the power equally, with each getting an estimated 49MW, said Eng. Claude Kayitenkore, the director of energy in EGL.
“We are now discussing the agreement that will guide sourcing of funds and the agreement that binds us together for the project to be delivered,” he said.
Eng. Kayitenkore said the investors have previously presented suggestions on how they wish to work together.
“These are the elements we have been discussing for a year and a half. We believe that currently, we are headed to a common understanding on important issues. One of the issues is about examining which donors will fund the project, and on what conditionalities,” he said.
This is because it is the cost of the donor funding that will ultimately determine the cost of the power from the project.
While meeting in Bujumbura, Burundi, in February, CEPGL foreign affairs ministers committed to working together and devising means leading to better functioning of the Community.
Bujumbura’s 24th ministerial meeting, among others, committed to supporting the construction of Rusizi III hydropower plant and adopted the regional Economic Programme for 2014- 2020.Follow https://twitter.com/KarhangaJames