The government of Rwanda is set to prioritise off-grid energy solutions such as solar energy and mini-power plants, reduce energy losses, as well as consider using natural gas instead of diesel in energy generating systems to ensure efficiency.
According to the Minister for Infrastructure, James Musoni, the development is in line with the country’s target to generate 563 megawatts and enable 70 per cent of Rwandan households to access electricity by 2018.
Of these, 48 per cent will be connected to the national grid and 22 per cent on off-grid systems, according to Rwanda Energy Group (REG).
As of now, the ministry figures indicate that 30.9 per cent of Rwandan households have access to electricity, of which 27.9 per cent are connected to on-grid energy.
On-grid system refers to electrification through a network of interrelated power system components like lines, consumers and generation. Off-grid system means a stand-alone system that is not interconnected to the main (national) grid.
Musoni explained to members of parliamentary Standing Committee on National Budget and Patrimony, on Monday, that electricity generation is expensive as it requires between $3 to 4 million to generate one megawatt, which translates into between $300 and $400 million to produce 100 megawatts.
MP Gabriel Semasaka, representative of the Committee’s economic cluster, welcomed the 10 per cent increment to the provisional budget allocated to the Ministry of Infrastructure in the fiscal year 2017/18.
However, he contended with other MPs said that the budget was still too low compared to the cost of infrastructure such as tarmac roads, energy, water generation and networks.
The proposed budget for MININFRA for the financial year 2017/8 is Rwf350 billion.
He added that connecting people, especially in remote areas, to the national grid is costly, giving an example of two electricity transaction lines; one from Kivu Methane Gas [in Western Province] and the other from Rwabusoro peat [in Southern Province] which can cost about $100 million.
“These are major activities that require a lot of funds, but also innovations. We have now built the base, system, and the momentum to achieve universal access to electricity,” he said adding that the country gave incentives to the private sector in energy development projects.
Reducing power cuts
The minister was in parliament over this year’s budget execution and next year’s estimates.
Talking about innovation in access, the minister said the government signed agreements with about 20 companies licensed to distribute solar systems among the population.
The companies will connect 530,000 households by June 2018.
Donatien Mungwarareba, Director of Advocacy at the Private Sector Federation, thanked the government for having reduced electricity tariffs, but said power blackouts was still an issue of concern and it causes losses to investors.
REG Chief Executive Officer, Jean Bosco Mugiraneza, said losses are incurred in the distribution process.
He, however, said electricity loss in Rwanda is over 20 per cent, which is higher than tolerable loss of between 10 and 15 per cent in developing countries.
“What we have started doing is installing smart meters in distribution networks so that we are also able to monitor such losses and do something to cut them,” he said, adding that by the end of the year the devices will have been mounted in all the networks.
To deal with commercial losses, which are at 2 percent, he said, they are considering installing smart meters into major industries using a lot of electricity which will accurately count and indicate prices for used energy.
He noted that to reduce such losses to 13 per cent, Rwanda will need not less than $100 million.
Based on the projects for the construction of substations and transmission lines, Mugiraneza reassured Rwandans that the issue of power cuts will have been addressed by next year.
Energy efficient systems
Engines used for the generation of energy in Rwanda use diesel, which is costly. And, officials at the Ministry of Infrastructure say they are planning to carry out a feasibility study on turning diesel-run engines into natural gas-run engines.
The Director of Energy Planning at Energy Development Corporation Ltd (EDCL), Yves Nshuti, explained to The New Times that a megawatt hour – amount of electricity that can be used by Kigali Convention Centre for 20 minutes – is generated using 273 litres of diesel (with a litre costing $1.1).
He said that once gas is used, the cost of electricity generation can reduce by about a half.
Information from Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) shows that power generation through diesel-fueled machinery, costs the country some Rwf59 billion per year.
According to the ministry, some energy projects are in the pipeline, among them the $400 million Gisagara peat to power expected to generate 80MW by 2019; a 55MW Symbion methane gas to power project; 27MW Rusumo hydro power project; and other micro hydro power Plants that will add about 200MW by 2021, doubling the current installed capacity.