Powering up with clean energy

Powering up with clean energy
December 3, 2010 Dave Fullerton

RWANDA’S BIGGEST SOURCE OF ENERGY is wood-burning. On some days, its steep valleys are filled with a wood-smoke haze.

At the moment, only eight percent of households have electricity but the demand for energy will increase rapidly in the coming decade. For many people, that just means having lights in their homes. For International and local companies it means powering offices, industrial facilities and communication systems.

“We need to look ahead,” said Albert Butare, Minister of State for Energy. “We’re working to go green.”

There are intensely practical reasons why Rwanda is interested in clean energy. First, the president believes that climate change could badly affect Rwanda’s agriculture. Second, Rwanda doesn’t have coal or gas supplies, or the money to import them in the quantities needed. And finally, the government believes that as they plant trees and develop clean energy, Rwandans can make money selling carbon credits.

The Rwandan government supports international agreements to cut emissions. If Rwanda can build a network of clean, diverse energy sources it could become a model for the developing world. So they are looking at many ways – methane from cattle, landfills and Lake Kivu, plus propane for cooking, solar, geothermal, biofuels, maybe wind – to provide energy for ten million people and a growing commercial sector.

About twenty-four new hydro-electric projects will be added to the three hundred already operating. Many are small-scale, providing just enough energy for a small area.


“We are encouraging every farmer to have a bio-gas plant,” Butare said. “It’s very much enough to cook. Some get lighting, if they have enough cows.”

Lots of other work is under way. By 2012, regional health clinics will be on the power grid or have their own solar panels. And more than half of schools within reach of the grid will have power. There are plans to turn organic rubbish into diesel fuel.

“We have to run fast to meet the new demands.”

Based on an article in The DesMoines Register by Perry Beeman