Written by Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti (The New Times)

A new peat power plant under construction is set to increase national energy production capacity by up to 40 per cent once works are complete, officials have said. Officials said this yesterday during a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of peat power plant in Mamba sector, Gisagara District, along Akanyaru valley bordering with Burundi.

A Turkish coal company and investor, HAKAN AS, is behind the project together with an international power company, Quantum Power, with participation of a development company, THEMIS. It is expected to add 80MW of electricity on national grid once completed. The current installed power capacity is 280MW.

Quantum Power (HQ Power) is said to be the first private company to establish a peat power plant in Africa.

Speaking after the groundbreaking ceremony, the Minister for Infrastructure, James Musoni, said the day marked another milestone on the nation’s path to the development.

“We are here to witness the groundbreaking of what will soon be one of the major power plants in our country, one that will help ensure not only a steady supply of power but also ensure efficient use of our sources,” Musoni said .

“This project is a synergy with other strategic projects that Rwanda has invested in and is expected to bring more energy to the national grid,” he noted, extending appreciation to HAKAN and other partners for their faith in Rwanda’s economy and in the country.

The minister said that in the last two decades the country has risen from nothing to where it is today, with energy being one of the important drivers, thanks to the current leadership of the country.

“The 80MW peat to power plant whose construction works we are launching today is a multi-million project that will obviously take our energy sector to another level once completed. We are certainly on the right track, towards achieving our development aspirations that were stipulated in our national strategies,” he added.

Musoni said that the project and others in the pipeline would increase installed capacity significantly to more than 500MW in the next five years. He said that the government would provide infrastructure, roads, expropriations fees, and transmission line which will cost $65million. He also assured the continued support to the investors throughout the works.

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He urged residents to be cooperative and work with the investors while tapping the opportunity and secure jobs from the project.

The peat power plant will be constructed by EPC Contractor worth $210 million, with a total project cost of $350 million, according to officials. The construction is expected to be completed in 36 months.

After the construction, HQ power will operate the plant for 26 years after which it would transfer it to the Government of Rwanda, they said. The company counts on the support of Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), FINNFUND, India Exim Bank, PTA Bank, Development Bank of Rwanda (BRD) and the African Export Import Bank. Ahmet N Karasoy, the CEO of HAKAN, said the project will transform Rwanda.

“But, importantly, the residents of this region are going to participate in this effort and the people are going to be the direct beneficiaries of the change,” he said.

The project will directly offer jobs to over 1000 people during the construction and 200 jobs during operation. Residents welcomed the construction of the plant, saying it will first offer them jobs before they get power from the peat from the valley that has been there unexploited for many years.

“I am very excited for the construction of the peat power.This will help us get jobs but, more importantly, we are expecting to get power from the peat in the near future,” said Augustin Kabano, one of the area residents.

Gisagara has 16,000 households connected to the national grid, representing 20.2 per cent of the population in the district. This is up from the 24 households that were connected to power before the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, according to district officials.