24 March 2014

Rwanda: Nyabarongo Hydro-Electric Plant to Significantly Boost Energy Supply

The Nyabarongo hydro-electric project, the construction of which started in 2009, is to start producing electricity between early June or late July, according to chief engineer Bosco Mugabo.

The plant is part of the government's seven year electricity plan (2011-2017) that aims to have electricity access to at least 70 percent of Rwandans by 2017.

Construction of the hydro-power plant, which will become the biggest in the country, commenced in 2009 and was initially scheduled to be completed in 2013.

"The deadline was extended because of delays in the expropriation process and importation of materials, as well as some logistical problems," Mugabo explained. "However, we promise the public that somewhere between early June and late July the project will be fully completed and start supplying power to the grid. We are working hard with the contractors to ensure it is ready at the set time."

John Lee Pattinson, the project manager at Nyabarongo hydro-electric plant, added that almost 80% of the equipment had been imported which had indeed caused significant delays. Yet he too expressed confidence that the current deadline would be met.

Construction of the plant is being under taken by two experienced Indian companies, Angelique International Ltd and BHEL. Part of the engineering work was also subcontracted to the Australian company Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation (SMEC).

The Nyabarongo plant has a capacity of 28MW, and the cost of its construction amounted to $110 million. Today, the dam has been as good as finished, and the first 14MW-turbine will start its test phase next month.

Mugabo pointed out that the project, with its 28MW, will significantly increase the country's power supply, considering that Rwanda currently produces 110MW in total. The target is to reach 563MW by 2017, which will require an investment capital estimated at $1.8 billion to increase electricity generation by at least 100MW annually for the next four years.

A maintenance team of 26 Rwandan nationals are undergoing training at the dam site so as to be able to ensure the plant is efficiently managed after completion.

"We have a group of engineers from EWSA currently on site who are learning how to maintain the plant while eight others are in Egypt for training on hydropower dam maintenance," explained the Nyabarongo chief engineer Mugabo.

EWSA expects another big boost to the national grid from the River Rusumo hydro power project (RRHPP) that is expected to produce 80MW of electricity each year after completion in 2018. Construction of the dam is expected to begin in 2015.

The RRHPP project is one of the largest in the region and will cost $470 million, of which $340 million will be used for the construction of the power generation facility and $130 million will be used for the transmission lines. The project is jointly funded by the World Bank and the Africa Development Bank (AfDB).

Apart from the Nyabarongo and Rusumo hydro-power plants, other key projects under construction are Giciye hydro power plant (4MW); six micro hydro plants with 4MW of Shili 1, Nyabahanga, Nyirabuhombo, Mukungwa II, Janja and Gashashi, as well as the Rukarara II hydro power plant (2.2MW) which was completed earlier this year. In addition, 25MW is to be obtained from the Kivuwatt methane project, 8.5MW from the Gigawatt Global Solar Plant and 15MW from Gishoma peat plant.


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