May 22, 2008
Rwanda gas power project starts June
By Sulah Nuwamanya

KIGALI-Rwanda may start generating electricity from methane gas from Lake Kivu by June this year, a cabinet minister has said.

The Minister of Energy, Albert Butare said that the pilot electricity plant at Gisenyi will generate about 5 megawatts.
The 10 million Euros plant will initially supply electricity to the towns of Gisenyi and Ruhengeri in western and northern provinces of the country respectively.

“The full exploitation and utilisation of the gas in one of East Africa’s most endowed lakes, is to contribute to sustainable socio-economic development as the country moves into the critical stage of industrialisation,” Butare said.
The Prime Minister, Bernard Makuza who visited the plant on the shores of Lake Kivu recently, said that when fully implemented, the project will mitigate the energy shortage in the region.
“We strongly believe that methane gas from Lake Kivu will provide in the near future a sustainable solution to the energy challenges and cause development not only in Rwanda but also in the region” Makuza said.

It is estimated that this project has potential to generate some 700 megawatts of electricity when both the Gisenyi and Kibuye plants are fully operational.
Lake Kivu has been found to have about 55 billion cubic metres of dissolved methane gas at a depth of 300 metres.
The government has in the past invested in thermal energy by installing generators in various parts of the country as a temporary solution to the energy crisis but turned out to be costly due to rising price of diesel— with the country spending in excess of $1 million per month.
Experts have said that both Gisenyi and Kibuye methane projects once fully developed can generate more power than Rwanda can consume.

It is anticipated that some of it will be exported to neighbouring countries such as Uganda that is suffering from a widening energy deficit.
“This project will also contribute to a reduction in the use of firewood or charcoal in the region as well as a reduction on pollution within the local environment by using a clean and renewable energy,” Makuza said.
According to Butare, Rwanda has in the past been consuming imported fuel from abroad and large volumes of wood and charcoal.

He says that natural gas is a much higher efficiency fuel because it is environmentally friendly and will reduce deforestation which has reached an alarming level in the country.
He said a shift to the use of methane energy will greatly improve both economic and environmental conditions in Rwanda.
“The government is avoiding past mistakes of not investing in power which has cost the country a lot of funds due to the difficulty in supplying hydro power. The government has in the past invested in thermal energy by installing generators in various parts of the country as a temporary solution to the energy crisis, which turned out to be costly due to expensive diesel” he said during a recent visit to Gisenyi.

He said Rwanda hopes to double its current electricity generation within two years.

When fully exploited, the methane gas available in the in Lake Kivu however, has the potential to increase Rwanda’s energy production by more than 20 times and that the government is currently courting more investors to build several plants.

Gisenyi residents say they hope this project will soon save them from big electricity bills and power crisis.
“We hope to start enjoying the benefits of methane gas from our lake and will contribute significantly to the socio-economic transformation of our area,” said Hassan Mwunvaneza, a resident.