The 43.5MW Nyabarongo II hydropower project is planned to be developed at the upper reaches of Nyabarongo River located in Shyorongi town of Rulindo district in Rwanda.

The hydropower project is being developed by Rwanda Energy Group (REG), the state-owned utility of Rwanda, to fulfil multiple objectives including water supply, irrigation, and electricity generation. The plant is expected to come online by 2024.

The project will enable Rwanda to realise its ambition of becoming one of the first African countries to achieve universal or total electrification.

Nyabarongo II hydropower project location and make-up

The power plant will be located approximately 20km northwest of Kigali, Rwanda’s capital. It consists of a 48m-high concrete dam with a 228m crest and a power station situated at the surface at the dam toe.

The power house will be installed with two 8.5MW Keplan turbines.

Nyabarongo II hydropower project objectives

Nyabarongo II multipurpose project is Rwanda’s one of the projects which are proposed to fulfil the objective of increasing the national installed grid capacity from 224MW to 513.5MW approximately.

It is also being developed to improve the current irrigation infrastructure and to turn 20,000 hectares of the surrounding swamp into a cultivatable land.

The project will improve the availability of municipal and industrial water for the nearby Rwandan capital city, Kigali and its neighbouring areas.

The yet to start 56-month construction project will also employ around 700 Rwandans.

Project financing

The project is estimated to require an investment of £165m ($214m). The Export-Import Bank of China is providing the required funds under a loan with repayment period of 20 years with a six year grace period.

Transmission infrastructure

The project includes the development a substation, and a 19.2km-long, 110kV transmission line that will connect the power plant to the Rulindo sub-station.

Contractors involved

China’s Sinohydro was awarded the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract for the project. The company is also responsible for the installation of the 110kV transmission line.

The feasibility study for the project was completed by Korea International Cooperation Agency.

Universal electrification plans of Rwanda

The Government of Rwanda has proposed plans to achieve universal reliable electrification by 2024. The plan aims to reduce power outages due to grid failures and technical faults.

Rwanda’s plans are supported by development partners from around the world including the European Union, World Bank, Saudi Fund for Development, OPEC, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Nordic Development Fund, among others.

Rwanda has made rapid progress towards electrification over the years. In 2009, only 10% of the population had access to electricity. The country has an installed capacity of 224MW, which is expected to increase to 513.5MW with a number of planned power plants including Nyabarongo II.

Power market in Rwanda

Hydropower is a major source for electricity generation in Rwanda. It contributes 221.1MW or 46.8% of the overall installed capacity from its 22 power stations.

Electricity is still a scarce resource and inaccessible for 47.2% Rwandans. Currently, only 1.4 million households have access to electricity through grid and off-grid electricity solutions.

Off-grid solutions and scarcity is a primary reason behind electricity thefts in the country. Meter tampering and bypassing, tapping power lines, and using illegal lines are rampant in Rwanda, due to which REG loses £1.5m ($1.99m) in revenue each year.

Nyabarongo II is the second power plant being built on the Nyabarongo River. The first power station on Nyabarongo River was commissioned in 2014 at Mushishiro, Muhanga district, approximately 80km from Shyorongi. It has an installed capacity of 28MW and currently operates at approximately 50% capacity.