TOP STORY: Rwanda’s new strategy to save energy

The pace at which the economy of Rwanda is growing necessitates more energy sources to equal the increasing energy demand in the country. Unfortunately developing a new reliable and sustainable energy sources always requires more time yet the demand for more energy increases on daily basis.

The pace at which the economy of Rwanda is growing necessitates more energy sources to equal the increasing energy demand in the country. Unfortunately developing a new reliable and sustainable energy sources always requires more time yet the demand for more energy increases on daily basis.

In a bid to address the energy needs in the country, the Ministry of Infrastructure has embarked on a countrywide campaign to use the available energy in the country more rationally and efficiently. The development was announced by the Minister of State of Energy, Eng. Albert Butare last week.

According to Butare, the objective of the new strategy by the Ministry is to promote energy efficiency and use of Renewable energy technologies across the country. He said that among other things, the Ministry is set to promote the use of Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL’s) in homes, offices, schools and other public places.

The pilot project is targeting to distribute 800,000 energy saving bulbs that consume 15watts to replace the incandescent lamps and bulbs which consume between 60watts to 100watts which still make up about 60 percent of the total bulbs used in the country.

The Minister said that a survey done by the ministry shows that if the 800,000 energy saving CFL’s replaced high consuming bulbs; the country would save a massive 90m KWH annually. The energy saving bulbs produce the same light and unlike the high consuming ones, are environmentally friendly and long lasting.

Butare said that there are cases of some quack businessmen importing fake energy saving bulbs which don’t last and they sell them to unsuspecting customers. He however added that the Ministry is cracking down on these individuals, while a deal has been reached with Electrogaz to certify and distribute genuine CFL’s while the people will be sensitised to buy only genuine and approved bulbs from authorised distributors.

Butare said that the ministry is also undertaking a project to promote the use of solar power in households and commercial establishments including community centres, hospitals, schools, hotels and industries among others.

The pilot project will see about 5,000 households which initially used electricity water heaters replace them with Solar Water Heaters (SWH).

Butare said that the Ministry found out that water heating consumes more electricity in a modern day household than anything else. It is therefore estimated that if the 5,000 household discarded their electricity water heaters and replaced them with Solar Water Heaters, the country would be able to save 11m KWH of electricity annually.

The Ministry is finalising talks with the Ministry of Finance and the Revenue Authority to waive taxes on different solar products imported in the country to lower the market price of such products for the local people to afford.

Also to be negotiated by the two ministries are the possibilities of having Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) imported in the country cheaply to enable people buy it for cooking purposes. Butare said that if the consumer price of LPG and the cylinder is reduced, many households and hotels would be able to acquire it as an alternative energy for cooking.

He said that 20,000 households would require only 5,000 tons of LPG to replace 40,000 tons of charcoal they use currently.

Other strategies will involve the ministries and local authorities sensitising people on good domestic and work place electricity management through awareness and mobilisation campaigns using different communication channels on good house keeping and energy saving practices, in a bid to change the attitude of the society towards energy management.

The government will also embark on renewable energy projects which will include solar photovoltaic plants, wind energy and Micro Hydro electric projects across the country.

The Minister said that the ministry has a target of installing solar photovoltaic plants producing at least 1MW by 2012 to satisfy the energy needs of 15,000 households and subscribers in rural areas.

He said that even with taxes exempted, solar panels remain expensive for most rural households to afford but the government will seek ways of giving subsidies required to boost the business.

Plans to develop a wind atlas in a bid to explore the potential of wind energy will be supported by installation of wind turbines producing 300kW of energy to power 1,000 households. Butare said that Rwanda possesses at least 333 potential micro hydro sites and the government is currently developing 23 of these sites in different locations of the country to produce a total of 11MW to supply electricity to over 100,000 households.

He said that bigger hydro electric projects at Rukarara and Rusizi and the recently commissioned Nyabarongo project are some of the initiatives by the Government to increase the country’s electricity grid.

A 35MW Methane Gas project on Lake Kivu, the first in the world, is set to be constructed, following the success of the pilot project which will be producing 5MW by July 2009. The World Bank through its financing arm, International Finance Corporation together with the Government of Rwanda and the Rwanda Investment Group will jointly finance the bigger project.

With 99 percent of the country still dependant on biomass energy, that is energy drawn directly from the environment such as firewood and Charcoal according to the research done by the energy ministry, the government is undertaking measures to ensure that biomass energy is used rationally and efficiently while sparing the environment.

Tree planting campaigns and use of energy saving cook stoves in rural households are some of the strategies the ministry is seeking to implement while people will be encouraged to use other alternatives such as saw dust, peat, coffee husks, carbonised papyrus instead of firewood and charcoal.

The government also intends to subsidise Kerosene to make it more affordable for people to use in cooking, using environmentally friendly stoves.