6 November 2018

Rwanda: Govt to Halve Dependency on Biomass Energy By 2024

Dependence on biomass energy remains a serious concern and government is working hard to reduce it by half by 2024, to ensure more Rwandans adopt and use clean cooking energy.

The Minister for Infrastructure, Claver Gatete said that dependency on biomass energy currently stands at 83 per cent and there is need to sharply reduce it.

The minister however said that biomass dependency was not only Rwanda's challenge adding that globally, there are 3 billion people that lack access to clean cooking energy.

In Sub Sahara Africa, he said, the deficit increased from 585 million in 2000 to over 860 million by the end of 2016, which is more than 70 per cent of the African population.

The minister said that government was currently developing strategies to achieve the target, including the use of institutional biogas and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in public institutions like prisons, police and military camps.

Other places include schools especially boarding, hospitals, hotels and restaurants in addition to rolling out LPG in urban and peri- urban areas, according to Gatete.

"The above actions will complement the ongoing policy of scaling up biogas in rural areas and use of improved cooking stoves and cooking materials like pellets and briquettes from agricultural residues," he said.

Annually, indoor smoke emitted from burning wood and other biomass fuels kills over four million people worldwide, mostly women and children and further damages the environment through cutting of wood as fuel.

"Therefore, it is important that governments and the private sector develop markets and provide clean cooking technologies to the population as a matter of priority," he noted.

Minister Gatete was speaking in Kigali at the opening of a four-day Renewable Energy for Sustainable Growth Forum that is underway in Kigali.

He said the meeting was an important platform that has prioritised clean cooking and fostering partnerships in promoting investments in clean cooking solutions.

He also appealed to the financial institutions to "consider financing some of the successful and promising business models and technologies that need to be scaled-up from the entire value chain of design, manufacturing, distribution, sales, marketing and maintenance of cook stoves"

"We are looking at how we can help investors in clean cooking energy, we need to know who need that help as we can't help all, we want to talk to partners as well as banks to ensure that the prices go down."

"We are also engaging gas importers to see how the prices can go down to reach many users, we want the gas price to be lower than the one of charcoals," he said

According to Dr Jon Leary, a researcher from Loughborough University, UK, governments and international financial institutions should prioritise mobilising people to adopt clean cooking energy as well as electricity distribution.

"Clean cooking is important because every year four million people die from respiratory illnesses, more victims than malaria, TB and AIDs claim combined, so having a clean cooking solution is important from a health perspective and from environmental perspective, as well as economic perspective, " he said

"The cost of charcoal is just rising and people have to pay more to cook, the cost of efficient electrical clean cooking is getting lower than using charcoal," he added.

He said that the Governments should also ensure that investors are assured that there are insurance companies that would be there to ensure that any risk is covered.

"Governments and internationals institutions should take on board some of the risks as new companies come into the sector so that they reduce the risks," he said.

According to Christine Mukundwa, head of corporate business at Sonarwa, a local insurance company, the firm has been following the growing trend in clean energy sector both in Rwanda and the region and some companies have picked interest in getting ensured.

"We have noticed that energy companies are facing higher risks and it is our duty to approach our partners and understand their business models, so that we help minimise risks through customised insurance covers," she said.

There are over 100 private companies operating in energy sector in Rwanda that are working with the Government to achieve the universal access to electricity by 2024 and the target to reduce dependence to biomass by the same year.

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