Rusumo hydropower project set to commence


The site of the Rusumo hydro-electric plant on the Rwandan-Tanzanian border. (photo Arnold Kwizera)

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.

Economic boost

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.

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