Lack of funds, capacity may delay Rwanda energy targets

Saturday May 28 2016

The KivuWatt's shore-based power production

The KivuWatt's shore-based power production facility that currently generates 26MW from the methane gas extraction in Lake Livu in Karongi District. The KivuWatt was inaugurated by President Kagame on May 16, 2016. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 


Rwanda could fall short of its ambitious plan to increase electricity supply by 202.6 per cent by 2018 through a combination of domestic power generation and imports.

Experts say a delay in completion of power projects, coupled with funding constraints and lack of capacity may hinder the country from achieving its goal.

Rwanda’s current generation capacity is 186MW and it needs an additional 377MW to meet its target of 563MW.

The growing number of industries and the government’s plan to increase power connections from the current 24 per cent to 70 per cent informed the ambitious 202.6 per cent projection.

Rwanda’s current demand is 110MW at peak level, against an installed capacity of 186MW.

The government and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca) said the country has the capacity to increase its power supply to 563MW by the 2017/18 financial year.

“The target Rwanda has set is achievable. There are many alternative sources of energy in the country that need to be exploited to scale up energy generation,” said Antonio Pedro, director of Uneca’s sub-regional office.

The commissioning of the 26MW methane gas power plant built by KivuWatt, a subsidiary of US-based Contour Global, helped to increase the country’s generation capacity.

More is expected from the $260 million-80MW peat-fuelled plant in southern Rwanda, which will be commissioned next year and is being developed by Hakan — a private Turkish company.

“The 26MW methane gas power plant will not address our energy problems but it is an indication of what is possible in trying to address this challenge. It shows that in a short time, we can also address all these challenges,” said President Paul Kagame during the commissioning of KivuWatt.

The government is also expecting a boost in its power generation when the Rusumo Hydroelectric Project is completed. 

Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania are supposed to equally share the 80MW generated by the hydroelectric project when it is completed by 2019. Each of the three countries is expected to add 26.6MW to their national grids.

The country also hopes to add 50MW to its grid when the 147MW Rusizi III hydropower project is complete, but it will be shared between Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.  

The government also plans to import power from the region, however this option is hindered by incomplete high voltage electricity transmission lines and substations both in Rwanda and Uganda.

The delay and lack of infrastructure are blamed on Isolux Ingenieria, a Spain-based engineering firm contracted to build the power lines and sub-stations.