8 January 2013 – Rwanda currently generates some 110 MW of electricity, but the country’s government is determined to ensure that this reaches 1,000 MW by 2017. Amongst other things it will help facilitate the target of 70% of the population gaining access to electricity over that period. In 2009 only 7 % of Rwandans had access to electricity and in rural areas where the majority of the country’s 10 million people still live this figure was only 1%.

While access to electricity has increased to 16% of the population, Rwanda has one of the highest unit prices of electricity. About 40% of Rwanda’s electricity is generated from the Jabana thermal plant which is expensive to run. Ideally it should fall into the category of emergency or peaking power. Jabana has three engines that each requires about 1,400 litres of imported heavy fuel oil every hour to produce 20 MW apiece.

According to the country’s electricity development strategy 2011  2017, electricity connections are projected to increase from 200,000 to around 1.2 million by 2017. The electricity consumption projections suggest that domestic demand is expected to account for 60% of peak demand, while cross-border mining projects are expected to represent 20% with sub regional electricity markets consuming the remaining 20%.

Based on the projections and plans, hydroelectric sources will contribute 320 MW to Rwanda’s generation mix, methane gas on Lake Kivu 300 MW, geothermal 310 MW and power from peat will produce some 200 MW.

Construction of a dam on the Nyabarongo River some 90 km from Kigali is halfway to completion, this being due in April 2014. That US$97.7 million hydroelectric project will have the capacity to produce up to 28 MW. There’s also the Rusizi III hydropower project on the Rusizi River being developed by Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo. With the feasibility study concluded, the project will commence in 2013 at an estimated cost of US$565 million, and its planned 145 MW will be shared equally by the three countries.

The US$400 million Rusumo Falls hydro project, an undertaking by Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania will also start in 2013 and is expected to generate around 90 MW for the three countries to share equally.

Smaller projects at different sites will provide another 10 MW at a cost of about US$30 million and the Nyabarongo II hydro project in Gankeke district in Northern Rwanda will see US$150 million invested to produce some 15 MW.

Rwanda sees Lake Kivu’s methane resources as having the potential to generate 700 MW of electricity over the next 55 years. By March 2013, power from methane at Lake Kivu is expected to add 25 MW to the country’s national grid.