Lake Kivu power project nears production threshold


(Posted 31st May 2015)

While in Rwanda during the last week did news emerge that another 25 MW of power will become available in July, when the long awaited Methane gas plant on Lake Kivu will begin production.

This will be the first of eventually four phases of added power production, using the huge deposit of Methane gas which is trapped under the lake water in form of a giant bubble and kept in place due to the depths of the lake and the weight of the water above it. The company, known as Kivu Watt, last week began the final installation of the plant’s first production unit, which will in coming years be gradually ramped up to 100 MW capacity.

Rwanda has set a target of producing 1.000 MW by the end of 2017 and is also in the process of adding more hydropower capacity across the country, along the Kagera River, using smaller rivers and also tapping into the geothermal potential which was identified under an exploration phase some years ago.

One of the major aims of generating more power is to connect the rural areas of the country and to provide lower cost electricity to rural communities. This strategy, policy makers’ hope, will eventually significantly reduce the use of firewood and charcoal, which is still prevalent in the rural and even in part the urban areas.

Re-forestation to a level of 30 percent coverage and protection of existing forests is a key element of Rwanda’s environmental policies as is the preservation of water towers and sanctioned and unsanctioned harvesting of firewood is a challenge considering the rising population of the country.

With tourism, the country’s number one foreign exchange earner, still largely nature and wildlife based, is it important to keep the foundation of this economic activity intact. Rwanda is perhaps the only country in the region which uncompromisingly pursues such conservation policies, a lesson not lost on this correspondent but equally a lesson not learned in the neighbouring countries.

Rwanda’s tourism industry has diversified by including cultural tourism, religious tourism with annual pilgrimages to worship and pray to the Lady of Kibeho, birding both inside and outside protected areas and most notably with the country’s entry into the MICE league, when the new convention centre is completed. These are major factors that the Land of a Thousand Hills continues to record sectorial growth in terms of numbers and revenues, again setting it apart from the other EAC countries where tourism has either fallen off the grid like in Burundi or faces sectorial challengers as in Uganda and Tanzania in particular in Kenya.

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