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Geothermal Energy Could End Power Crisis - World Bank

Apr 22, 2008 - Rwanda News Agency - All Africa Global Media

Rwanda should seriously consider exploration of geothermal resources because available data indicates significant potential that could solve the energy crisis and electrify the whole country, according to a new World Bank study.

Systematic assessment and exploration of geothermal resources for energy production would not only help meet the ongoing energy crisis, the Bank says, it would also counter the long-term needs of energy security.

The findings are part of a major WB study 'Buidling Science, Technology,a and Inovation Capacity in Rwanda: Developing Practical Solutions to Practical Problems', presented on Monday to government, development partners and the private sector.

Government commissioned the study in 2006 as part of efforts to see the possibility of using science and technology to turn the economy around.

The comprehensive study calls for a radical shift in all sectors if government is to achieve its 'dream' to orient the country's production capacity into a knowledge-based economy. Under the so called Vision 2020, government wants to create a hitech economy away from the old ways of production.

The WB and Government agree however that to achieve such an economy, enormous resources - both human and financial are required - which the two parties believe are worth it.

Building human capacity for the systematic analysis of the country's resources would be a primary goal of this program, Lead researcher and WB Science and Technology Program Coordinator Alfred Watkins told the stakeholders in Kigali yesterday.

"Investing in STI capacity building is a necessity, not a luxury", said Watkins, who led a team of 18 national and international experts for the study. There is no need of growing so much food when it is going to rot because it cannot be preserved or improved, he added.

The Minister of Science and Technology Prof. Romain Murenzi said government is "committed to ensuring that by 2020 our people will have home grown and practical solutions to their practical problems".

"In collaboration with universities and the private sector, we need to change the mind set of how our people look at science and technology - not as theory but as basis for tackling challenges facing our country", he said.

President Paul Kagame told an American scientific audience in February in Boston that government would invest 5 percent of GDP into developing science and technology over the next five years.

However, the WB experts caution against a "narrow focus on geothermal capacities because commercial viability of geothermal resources is yet unproven". Mapping of hot springs, fumaroles, and other geothermal surface manifestations has not been carried out in a systematic, comprehensive manner - although some previous studies show great potential, the experts say.

Limited observation and surface geological work has been conducted at hydrothermal springs in western and central parts of the country.

According to a 1999 preliminary report by the US Geological Energy Association, Rwanda's geothermal resources may be sufficient to provide 100 percent electrification of the country.

To tap from this supposed quantities and for the longer term, the World Bank proposes a two-track approach. The Rwanda Geoscientific Center is to be established as well - to provide support on how the country's human and institutional capacity can be settled.

Under track 1 - that has been dubbed 'urgent', the Bank says Rwanda should be supported to identify viable geothermal resources and generate 2-5 megawatts withing three years. If the pilot phase proves satisfactory, Rwanda can expand production of geothermal energy to 30-50 megawatts, the study says.

Long term capacity building for improved oversight and management of mining, hydrological and geothermal operations are some of the components proposed for the second track. This will largely involve universities and Rwanda courting regional governments.

Proposals to carry out assessments of geothermal potential have been received from the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) and US based Geothermal Development Associates (GDA). The German government is to fund the BGR portion at 300,000 Euros ($400,000 US dollars) starting later this year.

The American proposal, which is larger in scope, according to the World Bank, includes geological and geochemical testing at a number of sites, and geophysical surveys and temperature gradient drilling at three sites. At approximately $900,000 US dollars, the Bank says this can start immediately.

Rwanda has been in grip of biting power crisis due to low capacity from its many but small hydro plants. Government promptly has moved to tap from all sorts of sources including thermal but this has barely been sufficient. Efforts are under way to use up the vast quantities of methane gas in Lake Kivu - in the Western part.

"We are now looking at the construction of micro-hydroelectric stations, renewable energy industries and exploitation of methane gas for production of electricity to supplement the country's energy deficit," government said illustrating its priorities under the 2007/08 national budget.

Available figures show that less than 10% Rwandans have access to electricity which is also running at a shortfall of about 40 percent.

Government estimates that by 2020, if the ongoing plans in the energy sector bare fruit, some 1.4 million jobs will be created across different sector.


Updated: 2016/06/30

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