Local manufacturers always complain of intermittent power supply and unscheduled load shedding, which they say damages their machinery. This raises the cost of operations in terms of machine repair or buying new equipment, they often say.
The challenge emanates from insufficient power supply in the country that heavily relies on hydro-power generation by the government. Few manufacturers produce own energy to serve their power needs, a situation experts say should end, encouraging firms particularly the big manufacturing plants to turn to renewable energy and stop reliance on national power grid.
The country relies on hydro-power, which accounts for 97.37MW of electricity generated, while thermal energy contributes 51.7MW, and methane gas, 3.6MW. Solar energy use in Rwanda, as an alternative source of power, is still low at about 8.5MW, according to official figures.
The country presently has installed capacity of about 186MW of power, which the government targets to increase to at least 563MW by 2018 to make it possible to extend electricity to the majority of Rwandans. The government plans to increase off-grid power generation to 22MW over the same period, up from 8.75MW presently, with solar energy generation as one of the main proposed renewable energy sources.
Therefore, by embracing renewable energy for industrial use, manufacturers will ensure a sustainable source of power that will enhance efficiency and reduce operational costs, according to experts.
This comes on the heels of the launch of a new solar-diesel hybrid system that will run operations at Sorwathe Tea Factory in Kinihira, Rulindo District in Northern Province. The system, which uses German technology, is expected to significantly boost energy efficiency among industrial power users in the country.
The pilot phase of the system was launched last week by the One Shore Energy and BayWar.e. renewable energy at Sorwathe. The innovation comes in a wake of efforts by government and partners to spur power generation, especially for industrial use and to serve other private sector players.
Experts say the new system that comes with a solar power component allows manufacturers like Sorwathe to significantly save energy (of up 22,000 kilogrammes of CO2 every year) and enhance operations. Philipp Kunze, the One Shore Energy Solutions managing director, said the innovation combines both off-grid solar and diesel power generation systems and produces about 50KW of electricity.
“It is designed to help industrialists become energy efficient, and presents high-quality renewable energy technologies to allow the sector become more competitive,” he added.
Kunze said the system can help firms to produce power for 25 years, making the innovation the most cost-effective way to address power challenges in the country.
Sector analysts say unique business model and innovation like the solar-diesel hybrid system will boost renewable energy usage in the country.
Justus Mucyo, the Managing director BBOXX, one of the solar energy providers in the country, urged sector players to come up with suitable products and consumer-friendly sales mechanisms to boost solar energy uptake in the country.
According Andrew Wertheim, the Tea Importers Inc director, solutions, like the hybrid solar system, provides the best solution to power challenges faced by developing economies, like Rwanda, which have insufficient electricity supply.