A joint Africa-EU project in Rwanda is helping to improve the access of rural populations to electricity by developing the use of renewable energy sources such as hydroelectricity and solar power.
In its strategic energy plan, the Rwandan government has committed to increase production capacity of electricity by almost 300% (from 44MW today to approximately 120MW by 2011). This objective will be achieved thanks primarily to the development of hydroelectricity (50MW) but also through the production of electricity from methane gas in Lake Kivu (25MW).
Belgium's co-operation in this project involves a renewable energy programme to guarantee electricity supply in rural areas. This programme, with a budget of more than €20 million, includes the construction of micro-hydroelectric power plants and the development of other sources of renewable energy (solar), as well as the installation of medium-voltage lines to improve rural populations’ access to electricity. The aim is to increase access to electricity from 4% of the population in 2007 (less than 1% in rural areas) to more than 10% in 2012, which will nearly triple the number of beneficiaries (from 77 000 hook-ups at present to around 200 000).
Making the most of available resources
The cost of electricity is another important element. The programme aims to contribute to halving the electricity tariff. It will reduce the technical and commercial losses of existing grids and use electrical energy more rationally and efficiently.
The construction of micro-hydroelectric power plants in Rwanda has several advantages:
- It diversifies production sites and improves grid stability;
- It exploits the country’s hydroelectric potential (numerous rivers and streams);
- It strengthens energy autonomy;
- It diminishes reliance on fossil fuels by developing sustainable energy;
- It reduces pressure from deforestation by progressively replacing wood fuel with electricity for domestic consumption.
The programme also provides for other environmentally friendly actions, such as composting the plant waste collected during filtration at the micro-power plants’ water intakes. This compost should compensate for the impoverishment of the soil due to erosion and reduce the use of chemical fertilisers.