The Independent (Kampala)

8 November 2012

Rwanda: Climate Change Math

Rwanda's biogas project to go on world market:

Following a successful installation of biogas technology in all of Rwanda's ten prisons and exercise that produced good results, the development is now set to go on the world market, being driven by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

The COMESA mission arrived in Rwanda recently to support Rwanda Correctional Services (RCS)--which manages all prisons--put its human waste biogas on the world carbon market, under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and the Voluntary Market.

COMESA has been at the forefront in supporting its member states to benefit from innovation within the region. In addition COMESA encourages member states to learn from best practices in the region.

Rwanda has been one such country that has been innovative in climate change and environment in particular. All country's prisons are set to become environmentally friendly. According to the Deputy Commissioner General of RCS, Mary Gahonzire, the use of firewood for cooking purposes was not only environmentally hazardous but costly too. The decision by COMESA to support the project comes from an earlier COMESA mission to Rwanda, in the first quarter of this year, when it visited one of the prison facilities, Nstinda prison, in Rwamagana district in the Eastern Province and witnessed firsthand usage of human waste based biogas which impressed the delegation.

The mission was enthralled by how the facility housing over 5,000 inmates uses human waste to produce energy which is then used for cooking. In addition, processed waste is used as fertilizer making the facility economically productive and self-sustaining.

During this visit, it was further disclosed by RCS authorities that in one prison, the project has led to a reduction of usage of firewood from well over 50 cubic meters per day to about 15 per day.

Statistics of how much forests or wood usage that is saved by all the 10 country's prisons is part of what the COMESA funded consultant will be looking at to ensure that Rwanda aggregates the amount of carbon credits it saves which will be compensated in form of money.

According to RCS authorities, out of 14 correctional facilities scattered over Rwanda's 5 provinces, 10 were using human waste based biogas. The other four that were not using this innovation were due to relocate and once they move, Rwanda intends to have them all using the biogas.

Rwanda being one of the most populated countries in Africa, with 90% of the population still utilizing wood as their main source of energy, any project that saves forests is welcomed.

In addition the mission witnessed the fact that due to this transformation of human excreta into biogas, the prison had clean air, thus did not have the usual stench and respiratory complications that one usually finds in such facilities.

The biogas technology was developed by the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST).

The COMESA Secretary General, Sindiso Ngwenya, says that besides reducing costs and making the prisons more humane, the project could benefit by selling carbon credits on the carbon market.

After the exchanges between the COMESA's Sindiso and the RCS Commissioner General Paul Rwarakabije, COMESA has hired Clean Energy Solutions Consultants, a clean energy consulting firm based in Zambia, to work with Rwanda and COMESA with the view to putting this project, first of its kind in the COMESA region on the world carbon market.

One of the major benefits of the biogas energy is that methane and other Green House Gases instead of being emitted into the atmosphere are captured in the biogas digesters and burned as fuel.

Each biogas digester can capture a measured quantity of Green House Gases and that can be quantified for the purpose of claiming carbon credits. The credits can be converted into liquid cash through either voluntary carbon market or the clean development mechanism (CDM).

The consultant is expected to spend an initial period of 2 weeks in Rwanda, at this stage visits shall be paid to all existing facilities, with similar biogas projects, as well as hold consultations with RCS authorities, and other stake holders such as KIST who piloted the prison biogas project, and the National university of Rwanda who plan to have education curricula related to climate change. Others to be engaged during the visit include: the Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA), who are the national designated authority that will be needed in the process of registering the CDM project, the ministry of Trade and Industry that coordinates COMESA activities in Rwanda, and other stakeholders such as ministry of agriculture.

It is envisaged that the project will be on the world market mid-2013. COMESA plan to use Rwanda's experience and export the technology where it might not exist in the region. According to the Coordinator of the National Domestic Biogas Program, Timothy Kayumba, since the launch of the program in 2008, over 2,000 households had installed biogas plants. 56 boarding schools also had benefited from the plants, and also plans are underway to install in another 15 more schools. The technology approximately costs Rwf650, 000 to put up the smallest biogas measuring four cubic meters while a six cubic meter plant costs Rwf 800,000.

Government, through Energy, Water and Sanitation (EWSA), spends Rwf 300,000 as a subsidy to anyone willing to install a biogas plant in their homes while the beneficiary contributes a similar amount.

EWSA facilitates anyone wishing to construct a biogas plant to easily access a loan from Bank Populaire du Rwanda that is repaid within a period of three years at low interest rate of 13%

Kayumba says it takes a month to construct a biogas plant and if well-constructed, it has a minimum lifespan of around 30 years. The government has an annual budget of Rwf450 million to subsidize citizens wishing to put up the biodigesters.

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