Rusumo power project draws 20 firms

Twenty firms have been prequalified to bid for the construction of the regional Rusumo Falls Hydroelectric Project, which is expected to add 80MW to the Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania power grids by 2019.

The current electricity generation in the region cannot meet the increasing industrial and domestic demand, with governments using heavy diesel generators, thus pushing up power tariffs.

The project has attracted six Chinese firms, and 14 from Turkey, France, South Africa, Australia, Germany and Israel, who have been invited to bid for contract packages (CP1) which involve installation and supply of electromechanical works and equipment. The CP2, involving civil works, has attracted four companies.

“It is a good spectrum of contractors,” said project manager Johnson Lee Pattinson.

Mr Pattinson said evaluation of the bid documents will take place next April. The $470 million dam is expected to be completed in three to four years.

The three countries took a $340 million loan for construction from the World Bank, and $130 million came from the African Development Bank and other development partners.

Tanzania needs 870MW of electricity, but currently only generates 105MW. Rwanda projects that its needs will rise to 563MW in the next two years. The country’s generation capacity is currently 165MW, and 46 per cent of it is from heavy fuel oils and diesel generation plants.

To keep tariffs affordable, Rwanda heavily subsidises its power. Electricity tariffs in the country increased by 35 per cent for low voltage users, from 0.18 cents per kilowatt to 0.24 cents per kilowatt. The Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority says the subsidies have kept power affordable.

Rwanda’s Minister of Infrastructure James Musoni is optimistic that power tariffs will reduce when the expensive generation plants are phased out.