Power imports to increase supply, support industries in Rwanda - The East African

Power imports to increase supply, support industries in Rwanda

Saturday January 25 2014

By KABONA ESIARA Rwanda Today

Rwanda intends to import electricity from Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo to increase power supply for the growing manufacturing sector as well as bring down the energy costs.

Combined, Rwanda imports a total of 17MW from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda annually but the imports could increase when the country completes the high voltage power lines construction projects.

Though construction of interconnection lines with neighbouring countries has not started, a line from Birembo in Rwanda to Mirama Hills in Uganda is planned and tentatively according to government officials the project is likely to start in the first quarter of this year. It could be completed by mid next year.

Minister for Finance and Economic Planning Claver Gatete said President Paul Kagame negotiated for the power imports with the two countries.

“We need transmission lines to transport the electricity. The current transmission line is not compatible,” said Mr Gatete during a recent dialogue with the private sector to map out strategies of how the private sector can contribute to the government’s development agenda.

The private sector is concerned about the high cost of power, which has pushed up production costs. It makes Rwanda businesses uncompetitive and could impact negatively on the government’s development agenda.

Comparatively, Rwandans are paying 50 per cent more for energy as the country depends on over 52 per cent of its generation from the expensive thermal power.

Mr Gatete said ongoing power generation projects together with plans to import more could reduce power costs from Rwf14kWh to less than Rwf68kWh.

He noted that in some of the neighbouring countries where Rwanda intends to import power from, the cost of power is relatively low.

Currently, the country spends Rwf190 million monthly on importing power, which translates into Rwf2.8 billion annually. The cost is likely to double.

Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (Rura)— regulator of the power sector, however said Rwanda equally exports some power valued at Rwf12 million monthly to Uganda through Cyanika-Gisoto line.

Power losses

The country partly depends on power imports as part of the 110 MW installed generation capacity is not billed, meaning the energy distribution and generation company —Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority is facing power loses.

Alfred Byigereko, head of energy, water and sanitation regulation department at Rura said: “The available capacity is around 90 MW to 92 MW while the peak demand is 87 MW. However there is insufficient reserve margin of 15MW to 20MW.”

The reserve margin is required in case the one of the power sources stops, to ensure there is constant power supply in the country.

Currently, Rwanda does not have reserve power and sometimes parts of the country plunge into darkness while industries are forced to run the expensive diesel generators to remain in production.

According to Mr Byigereko, in November last year, there was a shortage of 23MW largely due to routine maintenance of the thermal plants and drop in water levels at the dams.

The government is looking at a private sector-driven economy in the next five years in the implementation of the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy.

In another project aimed at boosting supply, studies for the transmission line with Tanzania are already complete and will be implemented after the environmental impact assessment is carried out.