Rwanda plans to import 30MW of power from Kenya in a bid to address the energy needs of the growing manufacturing sector and bring down power costs.
The two countries have started negotiations that are expected to pave the way for power purchase agreements. Thereafter, Rwanda should start receiving power from Kenya by June 2015.
The 30MW will be almost twice what Rwanda imports from Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rwanda imports a combined total of 17MW from DR Congo and Uganda annually. The imports could increase further when the country completes its high voltage power projects.
However, the importation of power will require Uganda and Rwanda to upgrade the capacity of their power transmission lines from the current 220kV to 400kV like Kenya’s.
The higher voltage transmission lines, according to analysts, should allow the three countries — which still grapple with energy defecits that have slowed industrial growth in the region — to partly address the problem.
“Upgrading the transmission lines to 400kV will allow Rwanda to address the current power shortages but also export when there is excess,” said Ntare Karitanyi, chief executive of Energy Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA).
Before the transmission lines are upgraded, at least $2 billion (Rwf1.3 trillion) will be spent on feasibility studies in Uganda and Rwanda. The two countries are required to source for the funding.
The objective of the studies is to carry out technical analysis of the 400kV systems and financial and economic analyses of the project, then propose a road map for implementation of the project.
Rwanda has started construction of the interconnection lines with neighbouring countries. There is a line from Birembo in Rwanda to Mirama Hills in Uganda. These lines will increase the country’s access to cheaper energy sources from the region.
In another project aimed at boosting energy supply, studies for the transmission line with Tanzania are already complete and will be implemented after the environmental impact assessment is carried out.
Without its own major power generation plants, the country spends Rwf190 million monthly on importing power, which translates into Rwf2.8 billion annually. Another Rwf40 billion is spent on running the thermal power plants that produce almost half of the energy needs of the country.
The heavy reliance on thermal power pushes up the country’s energy costs. In Rwanda, consumers are paying $0.22 per kilowatt-hour (KWh), compared with $0.08 to $0.10 in the rest of the region, according to World Bank figures.
The World Bank said Rwanda experiences the highest number of power outages, with an average of 14 blackouts per month, followed by Burundi and Tanzania, both with 12. Ugandans experience 11 blackouts a month. Kenya’s power grid is more reliable, but still experiences an average of seven blackouts a month.
The Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority said that the country exports power valued at Rwf12 million monthly to Uganda through the Cyanika-Gisoto line. The study is also expected to address the power losses in the two countries.