16 October 2008 - The Rwandan Ministry of Infrastructure, with the help of the Belgian Technical Cooperation (BTC), is actively seeking to improve the electrification rate of Rwanda – especially in rural areas

According to Erik Van Malderen, the co-manager of the Rural Energy Project (REP) run jointly by the Ministry of Infrastructure and the BTC, Rwanda is one of the least electrified countries in Africa if not the least, with only five % of the population having access.

One of the solutions under consideration is the use of micro and mini hydro-electric plants, which can power a unit such as a hospital or a factory, a group of buildings or even a village. In this respect, BTC has already identified some 400 sites where such plants could be installed.

REP expects to increase connections from 77,000 people (4%) to 200,000 (10%) by 2012, in line with Rwanda Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS), which prescribes an increase in electricity production capacity from the current 44 MW to 120 MW in 2011.

The Nkora micro hydroelectricity production unit is an example of the benefits of this kind of project, powering as it does local health and education facilities

Furthermore, it will increase the potential for rural zones to attract different categories of professionals such as health practitioners, teachers, private entrepreneurs as well as investors.

The Nkora project (680kW) is only one component of a larger REP program for Western Province. The construction of this micro-hydroelectricity production unit will be carried out concurrently those in Cyimbili (350kW) and Keya (2,100kW) located further south.

The objective of these projects is to produce low-cost electricity, distributing it to rural population and feeding it into the national grid during off-peak consumption periods. The project produces relatively cheap electricity by using locally available and renewable resources (hydroelectricity, solar and wind energy).

The project is still at the start-up stage, with a request for proposals for feasibility and implementation studies for the micro-hydroelectricity production units and distribution network in Nyaruguru District having been submitted to the National Tender Board.