Government yesterday unveiled a new plan to light villages countrywide, singling out solar panels and mini-grids to drive the process.
The government had set out an ambitious national electrification plan to extend power to at least 70 per cent of the population by 2017.
However, a study conducted by the Ministry of Infrastructure, with the current pace of national electrification, only 33 per cent of Rwandans who live within the grid reach would have electricity by 2017.
The repackaged plan was presented by the State Minister in Charge of Energy, Emma-Francoise Isumbingabo, at a Local and Central Government meeting in Kigali yesterday. The meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi and reviewed the progress and challenges in the government's decentralisation programme.
Isumbingabo said government put reasonable subsidies on solar panels as well as support for private sector development of mini-grids in addition to extending the grid throughout the country.
"We came up with a plan to have 100 per cent of Rwandans access electricity but this will require delivering 100,000 biogas digesters that are fully subsidised to the poorest families in categories 1 and 2 as per Ubudehe classification. Also, government should provide financing support for other categories of the population," said Isumbingabo.
The plan indicates that government will have to spend US$17.6 million (Rwf11.1bn) for fully subsided 22,990 biogas digesters for the poorest families while US$2.1 million (Rwf1.3bn) would be spent on loans for 76580 biogas digesters.
The study, however, indicates that to ensure a total connection, people will have to be relocated to community settlements closer to the grids.
Extending the electricity network across the entire country, would involve connecting those households within reach of the network at a cost of US$408 million (Rwf258.2bn) for 366,000 connections.
"Once the network is in place to reach 70 per cent connection we will need to add around 850,000 new connections; of these around 750,000 households would have to relocate in order to be able to connect," said the state minister.
The fresh plan indicates that one of the major alternatives is the use of Solar PV system which can be installed anywhere in the country.
"We have categorised solar into two, the basic system which cost about US$70 (Rwf44,370) and have the ability to power two bulbs and charge a phone while the second category is top of the range and this costs US$200 (Rwf126,811) and has a stronger ability and could also power a TV and can as be installed quickly anywhere," Isumbingabo added.
The use of mini-grids which would connect villages is another alternative the ministry came up with that would be used to increase accessibility.
The mini-grids are small grids connecting multiple households to one generation source, typically hydro. It can supply higher voltage power than home Solar PV systems.
The repackaged plan as presented by the state minister has several benefits, including a lot of money that the government and people would save by use of alternative methods for universal access of electricity.
"These alternative methods are cheaper and would save the average rural family around $60 per year (Rwf38,044), Solar PV free from fumes from candle and kerosene. Our proposal to disseminate 1.2 million solar systems could save up to US$80 million (Rwf50.7bn) in kerosene imports over 5-years," added Isumbingabo.
According to the ministry, there are 192 potential hydro sites that have been identified in the Hydro Atlas that would power the mini-grids.
The study was completed last month.
Ultimately, the money that the government will spend on the universal access to electricity is lower than the initial amount that would have been spent to connect the 70 per cent households.
This time, the government would spend US$621 million (Rwf393.1bn) for universal access compared to the almost $800m (Rwf506.4bn) initially planned under the Electricity Access Role out programme (EARP).