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Rusumo Hydropower Project: Transforming Energy Landscape and Boosting Regional Connectivity

BY ALEX BALUKU

In a remarkable display of regional collaboration, the transboundary Rusumo Hydropower Project is on the verge of completion, solidifying its position as a game-changer in the energy sector and heralding a new era of sustainable development. The joint venture, involving the governments of Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi, has seen an investment of nearly $468 million, with financial support from the World Bank and the African Development Bank.

The ambitious project, situated at the Rusumo Falls on the border between Rwanda and Tanzania, aims to harness the untapped potential of the Rusumo River to generate clean and renewable energy. At 99.6 percent completion, the project has reached an exciting commissioning phase, as confirmed by project manager Eng. Alloyce Oduor.

Engineer. Alloyce Oduor. Photo By Alex Baluku.

The commissioning process, which involves rigorous testing and inspection of the major plant systems, is underway, with the completion of the first generator scheduled for the end of July this year. Following that, unit two will be commissioned in August, followed by unit three in September 2023. Once all units pass the necessary tests, the generating units will be ready for commercial operation.

Side View of the Power House for Rusumo Hydropower Project. Photo By Alex Baluku.

Upon achieving the Commercial Operation Date (COD), the responsibility of operating the Rusumo Hydropower Project will be handed over to the Rusumo Power Company Limited (RPCL). This special purpose company, established by the three nations, will oversee the ownership, operation, and maintenance of the hydropower project.

The Rusumo Hydropower Project is set to significantly increase the installed capacity for electricity generation in the region, benefitting all three countries involved. Each nation will receive a supply of 26.67 megawatts, contributing to their respective power grids and driving economic growth in various sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture, and infrastructure.

Pie Chat showing Percentage share of electricity computation.

Despite encountering challenges during implementation, including delays caused by cross-border movement issues, paperwork, and disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the project has successfully navigated these obstacles and emerged as a symbol of regional integration and cooperation.

The collaboration between Tanzanians, Rwandans, and Burundians working together on the project exemplifies the potential for future cross-border initiatives across the African continent.

Beyond its energy-generating capacity, the Rusumo Hydropower Project prioritizes environmental and social considerations. Detailed assessments and mitigation plans have been developed to address concerns related to the project’s impact on the environment, social aspects, health, and safety. The management plans aim to preserve aquatic ecosystems, protect biodiversity, and mitigate ecological impacts.

Moreover, the project’s Local Area Development Programme (LADP), with a budget of $15 million, is committed to giving back to the surrounding communities.

LADP has funded various social projects in Tanzania and these include the rehabilitation of water systems, construction of health centers and schools, and improvement of community development colleges. Similar initiatives have been implemented in Rwanda and Burundi, focusing on improving basic services and transforming the lives of rural communities.

The completion of the Rusumo Hydropower Project coincides with Tanzania’s efforts to expand its national power grid and transition towards cleaner energy sources.

The Minister for Energy, Mr. January Makamba, highlighted the growing demand for electricity in the country, driven by the increasing number of large customers and economic activities.

To address this demand, the Tanzanian government has allocated a significant portion of its budget to development projects, including the transmission lines associated with the Rusumo Falls Project.

The construction of three 220kV transmission lines will connect the power plant substation to key centers within each country, ensuring the efficient evacuation of power. The completion of the transmission lines in Tanzania has been a significant milestone, achieved through a collaboration of funding from the African Development Bank and the government.

Electricity Transmission Towers. Photo By Alex Baluku.

In an exclusive interview, Engineer Isaac Alukwe, a key figure involved in the implementation of the Rusumo Falls Hydro-electric Project, believes that the cross-border initiative shared by Rwanda, Tanzania, and Burundi will enhance cooperation among the three countries.

Alukwe emphasized the collaborative nature of the project and its transformative potential, stating that it fosters a spirit of cooperation and drives sustainable development.

The project will meet energy demands, develop infrastructure, and enhance connectivity, benefiting residential, commercial, and industrial sectors. Alukwe highlighted the deepening relationships, mutual trust, and coordination observed during the project’s planning and implementation stages.

Engineer Isaac Alukwe. Photo By Alex Baluku.

He also emphasized the environmental and socio-economic advantages, including reducing reliance on fossil fuels, mitigating climate change, creating employment opportunities, attracting investments, and stimulating economic growth.

Alukwe expressed optimism for future cooperation, suggesting that the successful Rusumo project sets a foundation for continued collaboration and regional integration.

Once fully operational, the electricity generated by the Rusumo Falls power plant will benefit various sectors, including residential, commercial, and industrial. It will enhance access to reliable power sources, enabling communities to flourish, businesses to thrive, and industries to expand their operations.

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