RWANDA could export electricity by the end of the next five years, if the government's ambitious plan to have generation capacity of over 1,000 mega watts by the end 2017 rises above existing challenges.
This was said recently, as Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi presented to Parliament, government's ambitious Rwf3 trillion ($4.7bn)-road map for energy production and accessibility over the next five years.
During the House's oversight session in which MPs applauded achievements and targets by government in the energy sector, MP Constance Mukayuhi Rwaka wanted to know the country's targeted absorption capacity, in 2017 and beyond, and sought to know if projections would allow for tapping into export revenues.
"Will the entire 1, 000 MW be consumed in the country or will it be possible to export some of it so that we can earn from it?" posed Mukayuhi, who is also the Chairperson of the parliamentary standing Committee on National Budget and Patrimony.
Habumuremyi said, "We planned that by 2017, around 800MW could be enough. It is obvious that we will need a reserve; bearing in mind [new] industries will keep coming up. But this does not prevent the fact that neighbouring countries need power...we could sell some."
"There are plans to build infrastructure that ensure that a connection with our neighbouring countries is set up. That is part of current projects, so that the other 200MW, if we don't need it, can be exported."
The country currently produces 110.8MW which equals to 16 per cent in terms of domestic accessibility. With 1, 000MW, accessibility will reach 70 per cent.
How will over 1, 000MW be achieved?
Apart from the various ongoing hydro electricity projects, the country has significant methane gas, geothermal, peat and other energy resources to draw from.
Government plans to progressively tap 200MW from peat, 310MW from geothermal, 320MW from hydro power, and 300MW from methane gas, among others.
Findings by the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), contracted in 2010 to explore for geothermal energy near Kalisimbi, indicated that Rwanda's potential is estimated to be at more than 700 Megawatts.
By end this year, some 6.4 mega watts will be added to the national grid, following the completion of different hydro projects in the districts of Musanze, Nyamagabe and Nyamasheke.
Last week, officials from the Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority announced that KivuWatt project that extracts methane gas from Kivu will, by March next year, pool 25 megawatts on the national energy grid.
Other key projects expected to be concluded next year include the Nyabarongo 1 project which will generate a further 28 megawatts at full capacity.
According to the premier, there are challenges but which are not insurmountable.
One is that energy projects require huge sums of money to implement.
This one, he said, is being addressed through encouraging private-public partnerships (PPPs), saying that the energy sector is lucrative.
Habumuremyi said over 10 investors have already expressed interest and could soon venture into the sector.
He said, "The participation of the private sector is still low but there is hope that it will participate more in the future."
Another challenge, he said, is the lack of local expertise in various fields of the energy sector.
The premier said that relying on foreign experts is costly, which is why government has sent Rwandans abroad to study and gain appropriate skills in relevant energy sector fields, especially in the exploration and exploitation of geothermal, peat, methane gas, and others.
Among other obstacles Habumuremyi told lawmakers, there are often delays when it comes to agreeing with neighbouring countries on the construction of shared energy projects.
He said, "This is because countries often have differing interests. But Rwanda will continue taking the lead in developing these projects."
Rwanda shares several hydro and methane gas projects with its neighbors, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Burundi.
According to MP Connie Bwiza, a member of the Chamber of Deputies' standing Committee on National Budget and Patrimony, government made the right decision in making energy "a priority of the priorities."
Bwiza said, "Even if it is very costly, the input will definitely determine the output. The road map itself is challenging but I think that the mere fact that we are challenged is healthy. It is okay. We should not be giving ourselves small targets."