The Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA) has strengthened its partnership with STEG International Services (SIS), the international arm of the Tunisian Electricity and Gas Agency, to learn about cheap and easy distribution system for electricity access to all.
Officials in charge of energy say that the ultimate target of the partnership is to enable them to connect 70% of the country by 2017 against 16% achieved today as a way to accelerate economic growth.
"In our national planning and policy formulation, we consider energy services as vital to rapid development, reducing inequality and sustaining inclusive economic growth," said Emma Francoise Isumbingabo, the State Minister in charge of Energy.
In addition, she noted that the distribution system for electricity access to all will have a high priority in implementing the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS2).
The State Minister was on Thursday speaking during a workshop on appropriate distribution system for electricity to all where Rwandan and Tunisian technicians discussed how to achieve rural electrification at lower cost.
While some might say 70% is an ambitious target considering that since the construction of the first hydropower plant six decades ago coverage today only stands at 16%, EWSA officials remain optimistic that the target is achievable within due time by promoting the appropriate single phase distribution system.
"This single phase system is supposed to be effective and cheaper to households," noted Mark Murenzi Rukata, the director of electricity utility at EWSA, adding that Rwanda has been using a three phase system which is required for industrial activity, but not for households.
"We were installing a three phase grid, but we still used a single phase to connect a household," Rukata said, adding that they want to promote the single phase system specifically for households.
According to officials, the confidence to succeed is inspired by Tunisia's success story that saw the country connect more than 99% of its population to electricity by 2009 compared to 6% in 1976.
The governments of Rwanda and Tunisia have been in partnership since 2008 in line with boosting the electricity rollout program. The countries signed an MoU that aimed at developing and reinforcing cooperation in energy development. As a result, in 2010, SIS signed a contract to connect around 4000 households in a pilot phase in Rukomo and Mimuri of Nyagatare district, which has been a success.
"We agreed on execution duration and they met the deadline for the pilot phase," Rukata said.
He added that the Tunisian company has subsequently won a contract to connect 50,000 households of six districts of eastern province namely Rwamagana, Kayonza, Nyagatare, Ngoma, Gatsibo and Kirehe. The project is expected to be finished in March after an execution period of 18 months.
According to energy officials, the new distribution system enabled Rwanda to increase access to electricity to 16% by 2012 from 4.5% in 2008, indicating exponential growth of electricity coverage.
In the meantime, the officials revealed that they have already done studies in districts of southern province so that the project can be extended there.