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Chinese biogas prototypes to boost renewable energy in Rwanda

DATE:2015-02-02       SOURCE:Xinhua News Agency

KIGALI, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- Francine Nayituriki, a mother of five from Ruhango, a district located at around 80 kilometers from Kigali in the Southern Rwanda, has at several attempts risked arrest for straying into the nearby forests to fetch wood for cooking, after the East African nation decide to enforce the law by bringing to justice those involved in cutting down trees.


Now the country has embarked on distributing new biogas prototype technology imported from China in a move to boost renewable energy for the poor and prevent them from destroying forest.


Despite living in the remote area away from the city, Nayituriki is among many women from the rural households which do not have access to electricity, and rely mainly on firewood for their energy needs.


While local authorities believe that forests have been undergoing anarchic destruction in many rural remote areas of this tiny East African nation, Nayituriki is convinced that there was no any other alternatives dedicated to consume less fuel and save cooking time for her family.


While access to electricity in Rwanda is currently recorded at about 18% among the general population estimated at 11 millions, experts say that forest lost over the last two decades will only recover if there are alternative to replace the existing wood energy for local consumption which causes on forest loss.


Now Nayituriki believed that the current biogas energy exploration in her village, which has been underway for more than a year, is slowly changing lives of local residents as the country desperately emphasizes to relieve its dependence on high-cost fossil fuels.


Within this move, a total of 3,365 biogas digesters using Fibre Glass Reinforced Biogas Technology which was imported from china, have been disseminated in households by local private companies under the established government subsidy on a 50/50 cost sharing principal.


It is expected that under the project, local commercial banks and microfinance institutions across the country have agreed with the government to lend to biogas project owners at a very low interest rate of 13.5% annually which slightly lower than the current Banking system loan rates estimated at around 17% of interest.


"In the past, when the phenomenon of fuel use through cutting trees was not alarming, there was no real urgency for locals to address the other forms of energy," Nayituriki told Xinhua.


Current private sector involvement in rural electrification programmes based on renewable energy indicates that Rwanda's capacity to tap biogas energy was much greater than that of other countries who have successfully implemented similar projects.


The Rwandan state minister in charge of energy, Germaine Kamayirese said that there was a need to make biogas like other hydro plants across the country more efficient so that these projects become a reality sooner.


"This is because, the cost of energy in the country is relatively high yet there is a way to reduce it, by promoting the exploration of alternative sources for the benefit of rural communities," the Rwandan official said.


The Rwandan government, facing an energy crisis, has invested in diversifying its sources, particularly by shifting to renewable energy, which will cover at least 60 percent of the country's energy consumption by 2020, according to forecasts.


Firewood remains the main source of energy in the country, particularly in rural areas, with about 93 percent of the population of this small Central African country heavily depending on this resource.


Official statistics show that at least 80 percent of the electricity generated in Rwanda, mainly by hydroelectric dams, is distributed in the city of Kigali and its vicinity, where only five percent of the Rwandan population live.


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