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Rwanda: Private Players Key to Rural Energy Access - Experts

Posted on : Friday, 2nd December 2016

Community engagement and the private sector participation will go a long way in accelerating energy access to rural areas where people are not connected to the national grid, experts have said.

They were speaking on Tuesday at the launch of findings from the feasibility study conducted by Energy Private Developers (EPD), an association of private energy providers, on how community participation can boost rollout of energy in rural areas.
During the Energy Business Dinner held in Kigali, energy sector experts discussed the findings and what more can be done to facilitate the private sector to shore up investments in the sector.
"We are conscious of the role of the private sector to universal energy access in Rwanda. In partnership with the Government and other stakeholders, we are trying different innovative ways to bring energy to all Rwandans, even those living in rural off-grid areas," said Ivan Twagirashema, the chairman of EPD.
This study shows that investing in communities through energy cooperatives and strengthening the role of the entire private sector can be more supportive.
"There are already existing cooperatives like tea cooperatives, rice associations and others. It's, therefore, very easy to use them to fast-track universal energy access in the country. One important thing about this is that investors could easily gain interest in this sector since it is easier to coordinate each activity," he added.
EPD brings together more than 90 private companies providing energy services countrywide.
Its primary objective is to provide necessary and relevant information that could attract more investment in energy by private sector, and help reach the national target of 563MW by 2018.
However, the private sector still sees a lot of risks in the sector. The study suggested that putting in place an attractive regulatory framework, facilitation of project management, facilitation of B2B (business-to-business) with international developers, and facilitation of innovative finance can attract more private investments.
"All these can come a long way to achieve universal energy access. In Rwanda, the comprehensive landscape of cooperatives on the various administrative levels has been influential, unlike other countries where people have been skeptical," said Georgia Badelt, the lead researcher.
"This study looked at the acceleration of electrification through mini-grids to boost local economic status in rural areas. This is an affordable way and it has worked in countries like Tanzania, Zambia, and Malawi. But to make it sustainable, the community needs to be involved," added Badelt.
Mini-grid or micro-grid is a small-scale electricity generation (10KW to 10MW) which serves a limited number of consumers via a distribution grid that can operate in isolation from national electricity transmission networks.
Government plans
According to Emmanuel Kamanzi, the managing director of Energy Development Corporation (EDCL), the government targets to have 78 percent of the private participation by 2022.
"The government targets having the private sector fully involved in the energy sector. Having private energy companies and groups coming together would serve as a catalyst in promoting the energy sector," he said.
This research, Kamanzi said, provided more information about "how we can achieve this. Allowing communities to take part in the development of their energy needs is critical and the government favours this approach".
To achieve this, Kamanzi said, the Government already laid out strategies, including a framework and provided investors with advisory services, while it is also helping them in finance mobilisation, among others.
Earlier this year, the government, in partnership with the private sector, signed power purchase and concession agreements with different firms to enhance energy generation.
These firms include: SYMBION POWER, which will produce 50MW from Lake Kivu Methane gas deposits; IGNITE, to provide solar energy solutions to 250,000 households, and a Turkish Firm HAKAN to operate and transfer a 80MW Peat power plant to produce electricity.

Source : allafrica.com
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