Africa, Dam Design and Construction, Small Hydro

“We need to focus on getting affordable, modern electricity to everybody in Africa”

In this interview, Dan Klinck, managing director of East African Power, discussed the company’s Rubagabaga Hydropower Limited project in Rwanda, which won the African Power, Energy & Water Industry Award in the category of Small-Scale Sustainable Energy Project. This award was given during African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa in Cape Town, South Africa, in May 2019.

Klinck also spoke at the East & Central Africa Mining Forum in Kigali in October 2019 as part of a panel discussion during a Power to the mines briefing with the theme “Building a commercially viable energy mix to support mining operations.”

Background on the Rubagabaga project

The Rubagabaga Hydropower Project is a 445-kW grid-connected, run-of-river project in the northern province of Rwanda. It has made a very large impact on the local and regional communities by bringing renewable energy, jobs and improved livelihood to thousands of households. The project was developed by East African Power and is the first hydropower project to implement a containerized turbine and generator in East Africa.

Built almost entirely using simple man-power with little mechanical intervention, this project gives credit to the innovative and resourceful nature of the Rwandan people. In addition to the 455 kW delivered to the national grid, Rubagabaga has created more than 1,000 jobs over the span of its life thus far.

The ongoing introduction of energy linked directly to innovative, locally-initiated industries creates a dynamic and diverse economy and a sustainably healthy community with the power to impact Rwanda on a national scale.

With the assistance of the EEP Africa donor fund, East African Power signed a Power Purchase Agreement with the privatized Rwandan utility, Energy Utility Corporation Ltd (EUCL) and a Concession Agreement with the Ministry of Infrastructure in Rwanda.

What is unique about this project in your view?

What’s unique about this project is that it is a public-private-community partnership. It is one thing to build a project that just hooks up the line and adds it to the utility. For us we really focused in on what it would do to the community and its productive use equipment, its industrial park, its community library, its agricultural center of excellence – it wasn’t just power to line up the grid, it was something that really could bring the community together and make a difference and we’re very happy about that.

Congratulations on recently winning the African Power, Energy & Water Industry Award

We’re very pleased with the award, this is very prestigious, and we are thrilled that Rubagabaga came to fruition. It’s been a lot of hard work, we’ve had 1,500 workers on this project, so this award is really for everybody who participated.

What is your message to the industry?

Focus on the people, in the end it is about fighting poverty through access to electricity. Whether you’re on grid whether you’re off grid, you’re doing what you can where you are with what you have. I think East African Power takes that practical approach to looking at things and I think we need to focus on getting affordable, modern electricity to everybody in Africa. That is what we are very passionate about doing.

This article was previously published on the East & Central Africa Mining Forum website.