KIGALI (Reuters) - Rwanda plans to spend $935 million on the development of 310 megawatts of electricity from geothermal sources in the next seven years to tackle severe electricity shortages, a government statement said on Tuesday.
Rwanda is one of East Africa’s fastest growing economies, with an expansion rate of 7.5 percent in 2010, but faster growth is hampered by major energy challenges.
“Rwanda is targeting 310 MW in the next seven years and the estimated cost is $935 million,” the energy ministry said in a statement.
“The geothermal sources have been identified between Gisenyi and Karisimbi Volcano and Bugarama. It will cost in total $30.2 million for drilling three exploration wells and doing the site preparation, which will include availing infrastructure on site.”
Geothermal power is produced by tapping the steam created by water trapped near hot rocks in the earth.
Only 14 percent of the Rwandan population has access to electricity, the ministry said.
The country had an installed capacity of only 69 MW in 2009, but plans to increase this to 130 MW by the end of 2012 through investments in small hydropower and methane gas plants.
Rwanda is in a prime area of the East African Rift Valley, one of the world’s hottest spots for geothermal activity.
The area with the most geothermal activity has been identified as the Virunga volcanic zones in the north and the area around hot springs in the west.
“Rwanda is also looking at developing hydropower, methane gas, solar, biogas, peat, with an ultimate goal to reach 1,000 MW of production capacity by 2017,” the statement said.
Experts estimate the geothermal potential along the East African Rift Valley in excess of 15,000 MW, but the huge potential has remained largely untapped except in Kenya and Ethiopia.