The United States Trade Development Agency has given two private firms over $1.1 million grant to develop small hydropower plants in Rwanda and Tanzania.
DC HydroPower Ltd will use $525,000 to support Rwaza I and Rwaza II plants in northwestern Rwanda, which have a combined capacity of 3.6 MW.
DC HydroPower has selected Ritoch-Powell & Associates Consulting Engineers Inc to provide technical assistance for the projects which target 7,000 households and businesses.
Ruaha River Power Company Ltd, a subsidiary of Continental Energy Corporation, will use $600,000 to support the development of two power generation facilities which are expected to supply 10MW to the national grid and off-grid villages in Lukosi River basin in Tanzania.
The feasibility study will be done by Knight Piesold & Co.
Ruaha’s director John Tate said the firm’s primary objective for doing the feasibility study is to develop a screening procedure to identify additional locations suitable for more 10MW hydropower projects.
“We established Ruaha Power to create a platform that could quickly identify, develop and launch small scale renewable energy generation and distribution network projects to serve off-grid communities,” said Mr Tate.
USTDA’s director Leocadia Zak said the projects will contribute to Power Africa’s initiative of increasing electricity access across the continent.
Over 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) lack access to electricity and over the past 20 years, the lack of generation capacity has created a significant supply gap due to rising demand.
The International Energy Agency estimates that SSA requires $11.4 billion of annual investment in new energy plants between 2010 to 2030, of which $6.5 billion will be in renewable infrastructure.
According to the International Monetary Fund, 29 out of 47 countries in sub-Saharan Africa face electricity shortages daily, and reliance on diesel power to address outages costs some economies one to five per cent of their GDP annually.
In October last year, Ruaha was appointed the manager of $95,000 grant from Rural Energy Agency (REA), made available under the Tanzania Energy Development Access (TEDAP) programme.
The funds were provided by the World Bank and the Global Environmental Fund, and are to be used to conduct a site-specific technical and environmental study for a proposed 2MW hybrid renewable energy generation and distribution network.
The study area is in the Iringa and Dodoma regions of central Tanzania, near the 300 kilowatt Malolo mini-grid, an existing hybrid biomass-diesel-solar power project, already being developed by Ruaha.
“The TEDAP grant is the first step towards Ruaha’s goal of realising commercial mini-grid development,” he said.
USTDA is also supporting on-going feasibility studies of the phased development of 12 MW in the new run-of-the-river hydropower generation of Rwanda-based Amahoro Energy SA.
Amahoro Energy will serve a region that suffered significantly during the period of insecurity caused by rebel forces intermittently crossing the border from Democratic Republic Congo between 1994 to 1999.