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With only two years left until Rwanda's set deadline for universal electrification, Rwanda Energy Group (REG) has said it needs $600 million (over Rwf612 billion) to fully achieve the target.

Currently, energy access in the country is at 72 per cent and the deadline for universal access is set for June 30, 2024.

The figures were disclosed on Monday, June 27 by the CEO of the energy group as officials from the infrastructure ministry and its affiliated agencies appeared before the senate standing committee economic development and finance.

Weiss told senators that REG has a clear masterplan – the national electrification plan (NEP) – on how all households will have been connected to electricity by [end of June] 2024.

He indicated that the plan they have with the World Bank will bring the rate of Rwandan households connected to energy to above 80 percent.

“We still have a budget gap to reach 100 percent, but we are working on it. We are requesting a loan of $600 million and this is in the process of approval. This will allow us to implement the remaining needed projects to reach 100 percent,” he said.

He indicated that for the households living in formal grouped settlements, in principle, they will all be connected to grid electricity.

But for areas where there are scattered houses, and residents will most likely relocate to formal grouped settlement sites in the future, he said, “We are connecting them off-grid with a temporary solution.”

“And this is not giving the houses the best electricity as on-grid but at least it gives them some support as they can read, they can have light to see around, power to charge their telephone and radio,” he said.

Senator Laetitia Nyinawamwiza said that the fact that Rwanda’s household energy access is going to reach 100 percent very soon [gradually by 2024] ‘is amazing’.  

Addressing expensive electricity

However, Nyinawamwiza expressed concern over costly electricity.

“The price [of electricity] is still high for citizens,” she said.

Responding to the high energy prices, Weiss said “we are aware that the electricity price is still high, “but we assure that in time it will go down.” He pointed out that the high electricity tariff was resulting from the fact that the country was still struggling with the fuel-run power plants.

Information from Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) shows that electricity generation through diesel-fueled machinery was costing the country some Rwf59 billion per year.

“The main problem that we have is that the peat power plant – Hakan [for the generation of electricity from peat in Akanyaru swamps in Gisagara District] – that was supposed to come in February 2020 delayed to come,” Weiss said.

“Now it is available, it has started to increase the [power] production, it is already in peak hours producing 20 megawatts and it will continue to increase in the next fiscal year. This power plant will replace the fuel [run] power plants and this will allow us to reduce the price in the future,” he said.

It was expected that this $400 million peat plant would have a capacity to generate 80 MW.

Weiss also said that other projects that are coming on board next year and will help to reduce the electricity tariff, include Shema power [with a capacity to generate 56 MW from Kivu methane gas], and also the $ 340 million regional Rusumo Hydropower Plant expected to generate 80 MW to be shared between Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi.  

According to data from REG, as of May 2022, the cumulative electricity connectivity rate was 71.92 percent of Rwandan households including 50.61 percent connected to the national grid and 21.31 percent accessing through off-grid systems (mainly solar energy).

The current energy access rate in Rwanda represents a significant step as it more than doubled in the last five years, given that only 30.9 per cent of Rwandan households had connection to electricity as of May 2017, according to data from the Ministry of Infrastructure.

Under the National Strategy for Transformation which will come to an end by the end of June 2024, Rwanda targets to have 100 percent of its households get access to electricity.

Among these households, 70 percent will be connected to the grid while 30 percent will be using off-grid solutions. - Emmanuel Ntirenganya, The New Times

 

NAIROBI, June 11 (Xinhua) -- Chinese tech giant Huawei is keen to support Kenya to upscale green energy adoption and hasten low-carbon growth.

Victor Koyier, Executive Manager of Business Development at Huawei Kenya said that the East African nation has abundant renewable energy sources such as solar, geothermal, and wind which can be utilized to accelerate the transition to a green economy.

The Kenya government seeks electricity production through green energy and we have the technological solutions to support this agenda, Koyier remarked during the Huawei FusionSolar Eastern Africa Partner Summit, held in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, late Friday.

Koyier observed that there is currently huge demand in Kenya for use of solar energy in the commercial and industrial sectors. "We have advanced energy storage systems which are alternatives for diesel-powered machines," said Koyier.

He revealed that Huawei also has energy solutions for households located outside the national electricity grid. "We have mini-grids that are solar-powered and can enable households in remote areas to have access to affordable electricity," Koyier said.

He added that Huawei also supports the training of students on green energy technologies to ensure that future generations in Kenya will provide solutions to enable the country to strengthen climate change adaptation and mitigation. - Xinhua

Rwanda is on its way to becoming "a living laboratory of emerging technologies" by leveraging its new Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR).

That's according to Innocent Bagamba Muhizi, CEO of the Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA), who was speaking at the virtual East Africa Com 2022 conference and said the 4IR center will support the development of an ecosystem of emerging technologies in the East African nation.

The C4IR in Kigali was officially launched in March 2022 following a partnership with the Ministry of ICT and Innovation and the World Economic Forum and aims to position Rwanda as a proof-of-concept hub and an enabler of an innovation and startup ecosystem.

Muhizi said the innovation center is currently working on an AI policy for ethical and responsible use of emerging technology, not only for Rwanda, but the region as a whole.

"Rwanda started the journey to digitize its economy back in the year 2000, with a focus on getting the policy issues right. The journey started with a firm conviction that innovation technologies are indispensable for development and a means to lift the country to a middle-income status," he said.

"Ever since that time, we have not weathered back but rather powered forward trying to drive digitization across the spectrum and across the entire country."

Rwanda has always been regarded as one of Africa's leaders when it comes to digitization and innovative technologies.

Muhizi said the country's digital vision has been translated into a series of programs aimed at increasing access to digital infrastructure and services to citizens and businesses. This includes the government's Irembo platform through which citizens are able to access services digitally.

"At present, Rwanda is rated as the most network ready country globally, thanks to our 97% population coverage with 4G/LTE," he added.

Muhizi said the COVID-19 pandemic has shown East Africa that affordable high-speed Internet is indispensable to preventing business interruptions that otherwise could contribute to welfare, revenue and employment losses.

"This important conversation is happening at a critical time where the world has been involved in so many innovations or has seen quite significant innovations and new models of operation that have helped nations to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate its impact on livelihoods," he said.

MTN Rwanda CEO, Mitwa Ng'ambi, also spoke at the East Africa Com event and said that while telecoms operators' primary goal is to provide connectivity for the geographies they serve, putting the correct devices into citizens' hands was critical to this digitization journey.

"I think in talking about connectivity, we can't ignore the discussions around smartphone penetration as well. Because before we even start talking about the thriving of digital economies, you have to make sure that people actually have tools to access the digital world that we're trying to create," she said.

"What we're seeing in a lot of the countries across the continent is that while we're making very big strides in closing the network coverage gaps across our footprints, the reality is that now we're creating a new gap, which we're now calling the usage gap," she added.

Ng'ambi said MTN Group's primary goal is to make sure connectivity reaches every single person in the region, but that another major part of this is "to really crack the dilemma around smartphones."

"Across the continent we see roughly about 40% smartphone penetration. Some markets are much stronger, you have the likes of South Africa and Nigeria in excess of 60% or 70%. But you have, for instance, Rwanda where smartphone penetration is still roughly about 20%," she explained.

"But I wouldn't say it's all doom and gloom because we are seeing the proliferation of a lot of different device financing models, which could also bring down the cost of a device."

She said this will help make sure the right devices are in the right hands, by breaking down that initial cost of investment from the consumer perspective, over weeks, months or years.

"We do have the drive and ambition to improve smartphone penetration, but at the same time, we'd like to drive adoption and that's where we'd see options such as device financing playing quite a key role," she added.

Muhizi believes there are critical elements that will help the East African region leapfrog into a digital future, the first of which is to "unleash the entrepreneurship and businesses of our young people" and increase investment in the right skills and capacity.

"It is a no brainer that however many tools you might have if we don't have the requisite skills and capacities to use these tools, they will not render us the development that we are looking for. It is therefore important and critical to invest in skills and capacity building of our young population," he said.

He said the region also needs to address the financing gaps that prevent businesses in Africa, and East Africa in particular, from scaling up and said the data governance landscape in East Africa needs to be upgraded and reformed "to fully capitalize on the opportunities that come with data," especially with the transformation in trade that will come through the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

"Looking to the future, it is important that all efforts are geared together to really push forward as a region, not only as individual states but as a region, to really make sure that we benefit from the potential and from all the attributes that digital technologies can be able to provide," Muhizi concluded. By: Marlene Mutimawase, AfricaTech 

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