17 August 2012 – Burundi has a power generation capacity of some 37 MW, but not all this capacity has been available due to a drop in water reserves at dams that provide hydroelectric power to the country. Electricity supplied by the state water and electricity board Regiseso is generated almost exclusively through eight hydroelectric plants with a combined installed capacity of 30.9 MW. Most of the rest of the country’s electricity requirements, some 15 MW are imported from neighbouring countries. The country’s supply deficit currently varies between 13 MW during the wet season and 23 MW during the dry season when the main hydropower plants are running at reduced capacity.

In addition to the low water levels, neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has cut exports to Burundi by 3.0 MW which has added to its shortfall. In response Burundi has secured a US$15 million grant from the World Bank to use emergency generators to alleviate some of the shortage by adding 5.5 MW to the grid. Regideso owns a 5.5 MW diesel power plant located in Bujumbura. It was acquired in 1995, but until recently, the plant has been used sparingly as back-up in case of hydropower production failure because of lack of funds to cover the high cost fuel.

The government is in talks with India, Israel, Norway and China to develop its power industry and triple consumption with 13 years. It is anticipated that demand in the country by 2030 will have increased to 700 MW, which means some additional 650 MW will have to be added by then. Burundi’s hydroelectric potential is estimated to be about 1,200 MW.

It is looking at the construction of a 12 MW hydroelectric facility in the west of the country, with building of this project expected to begin in 2013. In addition, the country is negotiating with the European Investment Bank and the World Bank to get finance to build another two hydroelectric plants which can supply 50 MW. A 10 MW hydroelectric plant worth US$45 million is to be build by a Chinese company. These various projects could take four to five years to complete.

Burundi has one of the lowest electricity access rates anywhere with only some 2.5% to 3% of the country’s eight million people having access to electrical energy. Recently water and electricity tariffs were doubled to enable Regideso to satisfy increasing demand.