China building Rwanda hydro plant

A Chinese state-owned engineering and construction company successfully completed river closure last week marking the start of the main building phase of the $214 million Nyabarongo II Multipurpose Project in Rwanda.

The construction of the 43 MW Nyabarongo II Hydropower Plant in Rwanda began in mid-2022 following a groundbreaking ceremony announced by the Minister of Infrastructure. Upon completion, the  hydropower plant will include three 14.5MW units built by Sinohydro, a Chinese state-owned hydropower engineering and construction company, and will be operational between September 2025 and January 2026.

Nyabarongo II multi-purpose dam is a concrete gravity dam built on the Nyabarongo River between the districts of Gakenke and Kamonyi in southwestern Rwanda. The dam will be bordered by a 48m high wall with a crest length of 228m.

The project includes a hydropower plant at the foot of the dam built by Sinohydro. The water released from the reservoir will turn the turbines to produce 43.5MW of electricity. The project also includes the construction of a substation, as well as the creation of a 110kV transmission line over a distance of 19.2km to connect the plant to the Rulindo substation.

In the country’s quest for more renewable energy to meet demand, the project undertaken by PowerChina is the largest hydropower development supported by the Chinese government in the East African nation. It is also one of the key projects of the “Eight Major Action Plans” of the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).

Nyabarongo II is funded by a concessional loan from the China Exim Bank, accounting for more than half of Kigali’s total borrowing from China since 2015 and a small share of Rwanda’s $8.9 billion total public debt.

This month, the Rwanda Ministry of Finance and the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) signed a $20 million loan concessional loan for transmission systems that will connect some 60,000 households in the Southern and Northern Provinces. The Nyabarongo is in the Northern province and could probably have its power transmitted through these newly funded distribution networks.

The Nyabarongo II Multipurpose Project is located about 20 kilometers from Kigali between Gakenke and Kamonyi districts on the Nyabarongo River. When fully operational, the new plant will generate 43.5 megawatts of electricity to power at least 43,000 homes and also provide water for domestic consumption and irrigation as well as mitigate flooding downstream.

Hydropower is one of the sectors the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) highlights among several other renewable energy generation opportunities including standalone solar systems for households and other users. Tapping into reliable renewable energy sources would help reduce the country’s expenses on fuel.


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