Power grid needs $54m upgrade to curb wastage

Tuesday April 9 2019

Power

Old power facilities hamper reliable supply of electricity to all. PHOTO | Cyril Ndegeya 

By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
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The government will need over $54 million to curb leakages in its electricity networks, which are under increasing pressure to accommodate additional load as demand from upcoming residential and industrial areas rises.

According to the Ministry of Infrastructure, a big chunk of the funds are needed to overhaul the country’s decade-old power transmission lines, while the rest will be used to purchase infrastructure needed to accommodate and transmit additional power coming onto the grid.

Power losses linked to aged power equipment combined with those attributed to illegal connections have seen Rwanda Energy Group (REG) lose more than Rwf19 billion in 2018.

The company currently puts the total annual system losses at 19.1 per cent, way above the global acceptable range of 10 per cent.

This is largely because power demand from residential and industrial sectors saw already overloaded substations overwhelmed by additional power load on.

There are calls for new power infrastructure dedicated to upcoming areas.

The Ministry of Infrastructure predicts that in the next three years there will be a need for more than 45 power substations, up from the existing 27, if the country is to meet demand from companies, schools, hospitals, among others.

“Going forward, we are now not only making sure that people get access to electricity, but we are also ensuring that we achieve operational efficiency of the national grid.

We have been able to reduce the losses by 1.1 per cent from the 2016/2017 fiscal year, and we want to keep that pace through an upgrade of our systems to make sure that the right amount of power is provided in strategic areas,” said Claver Gatete, Minister of Infrastructure.

REG officials said the company is now able to efficiently transmit the new power coming on to Kigali’s network with minimal losses due to $23 million fund support from the European Union, which enabled construction of two additional substations and an upgrade of three key substations in Kigali’s major transmission line.

The project, which was recently completed, has also seen the power utility company install more smart metres and reactive power compensators, all of which help check both technical and commercial losses in the network. REG chief executive officer Ron Weiss said as a result the power distribution network was strong enough.

Power blackouts in Kigali are likely to become rare, especially after setting up independent substations in areas such as Nzove where a water treatment plant and a brewery had been exerting loading on the key feeder supplying Nyabugogo and parts of the City.

The company is now focusing on other locations where there has been development and industrial activities requiring more power.

One of the most urgent areas include Bugesera where the planned international airport, the military installations in Gako, schools and water supply infrastructure have created a need for a dedicated substation and transmission lines.

Minister Gatete said upgrades and construction on the new substations, whose cost is put at $3 million each, will be done in phases depending on the availability of funding.

The government plans to connect all residents to electricity by 2024 with the targeted increase of installed power generation from 221.1MW to over 500MW.

The Ministry Infrastructure said power production initiatives were already underway like the peat-to-power project, the Rusumo project and phase two of Nyabarongo hydropower.

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