Geothermal key in Rwanda Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy

Start of Drilling campaign, Rwanda (source: Twitter/ Silas Lwakabamba)
Alexander Richter 1 Nov 2013

Geothermal energy plays an important part in the Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy of Rwanda in Eastern Africa., particularly as it would decrease the country's reliance on imported foreign oil.

In a Climate and development Outlook for the country of Rwanda, the Climate and Development Knowledge Network reported on the country’s efforts on a climate change strategy.

The government of Rwanda has developed a a climate change strategy and established an environmental fund, providing a strategic pathway for tackling climate change
and a mechanism to finance its implementation. Both are products of sustained efforts to integrate climate compatible development into core development policies.

The international community has also signalled its support of Rwanda’s approach. In June 2013, Rwanda’s Fund for Environment and Climate Change (FONERWA) obtained financing from the British International Climate Fund (ICF) to the value of GBP22.5 million ($36 million), making it the largest demand-based climate fund in Africa.

Rwanda has been enjoying an annual GDP growth averaging 8.5 percent over the past five years. In its Vision 2020, a growth plan for the economy, Rwanda is looking at a transformation of the country from a subsistence-agricultural economy to a knowledge-based, middle-income economy by 2020. However, the issue of climate change represents a major threat to the economic prospects of this small, landlocked and densely populated nation.

“The 2009 Economics of Climate Change in Rwanda study found that climate change is likely to cost 1% of GDP per year by 2030. Climate change will increasingly take a toll on agricultural production, energy generation, water resource management and public health. Agriculture employs 80% of the population, and hydropower accounts
for 55% of installed generation, making both these sectors particularly vulnerable.”

“As an oil importer, Rwanda is also sensitive to oil price spikes. Moving to renewable energy sources would provide domestic energy security, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and provide a major boost to the economy, as payments abroad for oil are replaced by local expenditure for energy production and other development needs.”

So in 2011, the country developed a Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy after an intensive nine month strategy development phase.  In this strategy, ways are proposed to integrate “adaptation and mitigation actions across all sectors of the economy, focusing on the socio-economic development and future prosperities of Rwandans.”

Geothermal Energy

The strategy highlights seven ‘Big Wins’ and 14 ‘Programmes of Action’ that will transform Rwanda’s economy into a climate resilient and low carbon economy. ‘Big Wins’ are identified as initiatives offering the biggest return on investment, affecting the whole economy over the long term. They include development of Rwanda’s geothermal energy reserves, integrated soil fertility management, and a robust and climate resilient road network.

Geothermal energy, in particular, could provide greater economic stability through decreased reliance on foreign oil imports. Only 16% of Rwandans are currently connected to the energy grid (up from 6% in 2008). An estimated geothermal potential of 700MW could exceed domestic electricity demand by 2020, if exploited. ‘Programmes of Action’ address the most important areas of work that are likely to succeed. These include integrated water resource management, sustainable land-use management, and a low carbon energy grid. 

Central to the strategy’s success will be building the relevant capacities for implementation within key economic sectors and across levels of government. The strategy’s alignment with national development goals in Vision 2020 and Rwanda’s medium term development plan, the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS), bodes well for its future. The strategy is also a signal to the international community that the GoR is preparing the national economy to take advantage of global green growth. The Minister of Natural Resources, Stanislas Kamanzi noted: “It is the responsibility of each nation to find the best way, to adapt, to adjust, and to find a solution that does not compromise sustainable development.

In August 2013, the country launched the drilling campaign to explore its geothermal potential, focusing on the drilling of three exploration wells at the slopes of Mt. Karisimbi in Kabatwa Sector, Nyabihu District., as reported on ThinkGeoEnergy this summer.

Source: Climate and Development Knowledge Network (pdf)