HUYE/NYANZA-Huye and Nyanza residents are experiencing a positive change in their living conditions after being connected to the national electricity grid.
The various business centres that The New Times visited attested to the transformation. New businesses are flourishing and new activities emerging. They include barbershops, flour mills, furniture and metalwork workshops are springing up.
Pubs, Music shops and video shacks are cashing in on the new found status while residences have also become every active and new modern houses constructed
The apparent change is supported by testimonies from a number of local residents The New Times interviewed.
Holding a trowel as he applies a coat on the walls of his house under renovation, Eliab Niyongira, a resident of Mpare cell Tumba sector, was eager to testify about the benefits he gained after the area was connected to electricity a year ago.
"We come together in a group of nine people and paid Rwf 1.5 m to have this area connected", Niyongira, a mason said.
"If we did so it is because we knew we would benefit from such an initiative".
According to Niyongira the acquisition of electricity has raised the value of land in the area.
"The cost of land has increased from Rwf 100 000 to 200 000 in a year, but sometimes it reaches Rwf 300,000", Niyongira, a father of three, said.
Also attesting of the impact, is the emergence of new activities.
"People, especially the youth, are more and more involved in various income generating activities, rather than only relying on agriculture", says one Dieudonné Ntirenganya, 20.
"People are starting barber shops or metal workshops and so many other activities which were not possible to start when we were not connected to the power line".
The young man adds: "Today, we can work both day and night. For instance, I am a causal labourer during the day but sometimes I work as a hairdresser at night. This gives me extra revenues".
Venuste Ntakiyimana, a hairdresser in Muyira sector, Nyanza district says: "Before I spent at least Rwf 3000 per day on oil for generators, but since we were connected to the electricity I now spend less than Rwf 1500 a week".
"This has given me an opportunity to save more".
Huye district vice mayor in charge of economic affairs Cyprien Mutwarasibo told The New Times that the distribution of electricity in rural areas is a priority.
"As a country which wants to move from the agriculture-based economy to more diversified activities, electricity plays an important role in a way that it gives people an opportunity to start engaging in various fields", he said.
During the last 12 months, some rural areas which have been connected to the electricity grid in Huye district include Mpare in Tumba sector, Kinazi (Kinazi sector), Kiruhura (Rusatira sector), Sahera (Mukura) and Gatobotobo (Mbazi).
To cope with the growing demand for energy, the government has started the construction of various power plants countrywide.
Likewise, the government has embarked on drilling for geothermal energy, targeting 310MW in the next seven years, with an estimated cost of $935 million.
The geothermal sources have been identified between Gisenyi and Karisimbi Volcano and Bugarama. Experts estimate the geothermal potential along the East African Rift Valley is in excess of 15,000 MW, but the huge potential has remained largely untapped except in Kenya and Ethiopia, according to the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA).
Another area with abundant energy potential is methane gas in Lake Kivu.