Energy and the catchment are linked in many ways. From the trees cut for wood fuel for cooking and firewood for the industries as tea estates and brick making to the water that is responsible for 60% of the electricity in Rwanda (2012).
Waste is also an important potential energy source solving waste and energy questions at once. Peat is an relatively easy energy source but with potential environmental risks of disturbing the water cycle and reducing biodiversity. The degradation of the Rugezi wetlands led to discontinued water flow halting the hydropower plants.
The Rwanda Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy was developed in 2011 states that wood consumption should be reduced to 4.5 million metric tonnes per year to keep biomass consumption within the productive capacity of Rwanda. Since 2002, there have been consistent gaps in wood production with deficits reaching 12 million cubic meters in 2009.
Firewood collection contributes to the deforestation. Energy efficient stoves will reduce the household fuel burden by around 50% . Time and money are saved.In addition families experience a significant health benefit as the stoves reduce the indoor smoke pollution by over 70%.
On the other hand, the value of (agro-)forestry increases because people use it as renewable fuel. A vision and farm management plan can help to farmer to appreciate the value of the wood production (including firewood). If you make firewood production part of a sustainable business model protection and investment can go hand in hand with the use of it: people have a reason to invest in it.
Under the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy, government seeks to reduce wood fuel consumption to 50 per cent by 2018. Rwanda committed to restore two million hectares of degraded land and forests by 2020. One of the targets in the country’s Vision 2020 is to increase forest cover to 30 per cent.
Rwanda also calls for a strategic and well-laid out plan to transition from wood fuel and charcoal to clean and more efficient cooking methods by providing more sustainable energy alternatives such as biomass pellets and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG). The,strategy also includes for modern agriculture and better forestry management methods to increase productivity.
According to the Fourth Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey (EACV4), 83 per cent of households use firewood, while 13 per cent use gas and other energy sources for cooking.The green growth policy seeks to find ways of improving the efficiency of cooking stoves.
14 tea factories across Rwanda are major users of firewood to fire boilers to dry and cure the tea. For exemple SORWATHE (Rulindo district) uses over 10,000 cubic meters of firewood per year. The factory owns around 500 hectares of forest to provide firewood.
There are nine firms involved in LPG trade in the country. The use of LPG in cooking has increased from 724.6 tonnes in 2010 to 2,808.43 tonnes in 2016.he LPG production from lake Kivu is growing which opens up the replacement of wood and charcoal by the cleaner gas. The gas can also be used for the generation of electricity but transforming one form of energy into another involved considerable losses.
Mobilising people to embrace LPG is one of the targets in performance contracts of local leaders countrywide.The growing demand is due to campaigns. Government scrapped value added tax LPG and cylinders. The price of gas has dropped from RWF 1,600 per kilogramme in 2010 to RWF 1,100 in 2106 and gas cylinders, ranging from one kilogramme are available on the market to ensure every Rwanda can afford LPG.
Natural gas can also be used to produce nitrogen based fertilizer. Urea and Ammonia can be produced from Rwandas Methane gas for a fast growing fertilizer market in Rwanda and the region. Increased water productivity of crops will demand more nutrients to reach the potential of which large part is Nitrogen based.
Hydro-power in Rwanda
Hydropower large scale and pico hydropower is an important clean energy source for Rwanda.
Drought means hydro power stops generating electricity. Power plants based on non renewable energy resources consume quit a lot of water in the process.
Rwanda’s major Rivers have proven 333 potential sites for Micro-hydropower countrywide. Opportunities exist in Micro and Small hydropower projects and shared regional hydropower projects with East Africa. The overall potential is estimated at around 400 MW with a current installed hydro capacity of 98.5 MW. As a result of extremely low operational costs, hydro is still one of the cheapest forms of generation in the long run.
The largest domestic hydropower project under construction is Nyabarongo I, with an installed capacity of 28 MW. There are some concerns about the sediment load of the river that could shorten the lifespan of the dam and cause damage to the turbines. Plans to curb the erosion caused by mines and farming are underway.
Some shared hydropower projects with neighboring countries are also underway, including 145 MW project shared by Burundi, DRC and Rwanda and a 90 MW project to be jointly developed by Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda..
A number of micro,- mini and small hydro-power projects are currently under construction.
In Sebeya, there is a very limited number of unequipped sites: 2 sites in Rutsiro District, one being ~20 kW and the other one ~150 kW. to be potentially used by health center and a school.
The success of micro-hydro power is determined by the potential consumers / micro-industries for valorization of the energy.
In Upper Nyabarongo catchment are many small streams with an potential to generate hydropower. The Nyamagabe district, the atlas lists 13 sites ranging from 20 to 150 kW; 10 of them being < 50 kW.
A first step towards implementation of mini-hydropower is the identification missions of the different sites need to collect basic data such as: actual possibilities for development, hydraulic height for the pressures, the water flow, potential consumption location and power.
The ongoing population growth is increasing the demand for energy, which has direct effects on the forests of Rwanda and its environment in general. The majority of our population still relies on fired wood for cooking especially in rural areas and in refugee camps. Improved cooking stoves provide a solution to this problem by showing various benefits. They require much less firewood, exhaust much less smoke and allow people to save money and therefore the rate of deforestation is reduced and the atmospheric pollution is reduced.
Different designs are available in Rwanda: such as the Save 80 made under a project run by SaferRwanda (a local organization); TEKUTANGIJE invented by Isidore Nzeyimana, which performs three functions at once: cooking produce, heating water and grilling foodstuffs; thereby saving fuel and reducing pollution.
Together with more energy efficient ways of food preparation it is possible to reduce the demand for wood up to 70%. For exemple soaking dry beans the night before drastically reduces cooking time and less boiled vegetables do not only safe energy but are also more healthy.
Industries and human settlements produce waste that is often full of useful products as energy and nutrients. Untreated waste contaminates the environment and causes problems to other users in the catchment. When the waste is treated and recycled it becomes valuable to the other users.
Small-scale power generation using agricultural residues (either directly, in the case of bagasse from the sugarcane or rice husks) or biomass briquettes from compacted waste residues or charcoal dust is feasible at low levels of capacity.
In addition, there is a small potential for generating power from landfill gas, waste water effluent, and municipal solid waste. The bigger industries like coffee-washing stations, tea and sugarcane factories have the options to deal with the crop residues. Choosing cleaner options present different benefits such as :