Rusumo hydropower project set to commence
Energy ministers from Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi met in Rusumo yesterday to kick-start the construction of a joint hydro-electric project. Silas Lwakabamba, Minister of Infrastructure, and Emma Francoise, the Minister of State in charge of water and energy, led the Rwandan delegation.
The government’s first expressed its intention for joint project development first took place in 2006, reports were concluded in 2012, and project construction on the hydro-electric project will start in the first quarter of 2015 and will be completed in 2018.
The Rusumo hydroelectric power project is seen as a lifeline to provide electricity access to hundreds of thousands of citizens in the three East African countries of Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania. The Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program (NELSAP), part of the Nile Basin Initiative, is implementing it.
The Regional Rusumo Hydroelectric Power Project (RRHPP) is expected to produce 80 megawatts of electricity per year that will be shared equally by the three nations. Currently, 16% of Rwandans have access to electricity. The electricity generated is expected to increase access to electricity by 4% in Rwanda, 5% in Burundi, and 0.34% Tanzania. Additionally, the project will be able to supply electricity to the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
One of the largest investment projects
The RRHPP is one of the largest investment projects in East Africa. Strenuous preparations and feasibility studies have minimized potential risks on the project and region.
The project is expected to take four years, starting March 2015 and ending December 2018 and is expected to cost $470 million, of which $340 million will be used for the construction of the power generation facility and $130 million will be used for the construction of transmission lines.
The project is jointly funded by the World Bank, African development bank (AfDB) and other development partners, including KFW and the Netherlands government. The World Bank will primarily finance the $340 million power generation facility, with the three partner states each receiving $113.30 million, and other money going to compensate local land owners on the site of the plant. Rwanda’s portion will be 50% grant and 50% loan, Tanzania’s 100% loan and Burundi’s 100% grant.
AfDB is considering financing $88.24millionof the transmission lines. Their decision will be approved in November of this year. The bank will finance the transmission lines of all the three nations Rwanda (with 58km of lines), Tanzania (87km of lines) and Burundi (167km of lines).
The project has fulfilled all bank safeguard requirements with the approval of the environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) and the resettlement action plan (RAP). The ESIA and RAP have been comprehensively drafted, including consultations with the local population in the area. The two documents also fulfilled the respective countries national laws and international safeguard requirement.
Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony in Bukoba, Tanzania, the Minister of Energy and Minerals from Tanzania, Sospates Muhongo, said: “This project is one of the ways people’s aspirations in the region are going to be materialized as it is going to boost the economy of the region through activities like tourism and sufficient electricity to boost the local manufacturing sectors.”
The power plant will be designed along 1,320 meters of river, thus relinquishing the need to build a reservoir.
The countries have established a jointly owned utility mechanism—called Rusumo Power Company—to co-manage power generation and power sales to national utilities. The Rusumo Power Company (RSPCL) will be publically financed and will oversee activities during operations. While jointly owned by the three states, the company will be privately managed.
The project is now recruiting an Owners Engineers; six firms have already bided for the opening. After recruitment of the Owners Engineer, the project will look for a contractor to update the existing structural designs of the power plant to the ‘river run’ development scheme planned.
By switching the plant design from its original model to a ‘river run’ scheme, the impacts on local people have been significantly reduced. According to the project’s public consultation and disclosure plan, over 9,000 project-affected people were consulted between July 2011 and February 2012, before the design was switched. Now, 664 local households affected by the construction of the power plant are located upstream of the facility in Kagera basin. All 664 households on Rwandan and Tanzanian sides of the border are consulted and updated from regularly.