Rwanda: Lack of funded projects ‘could undermine’ clean cooking targets

Even as Rwanda seeks to reduce the proportion of households using wood fuel for cooking, a lack of projects funded by manufacturers of clean cooking technologies could undermine efforts to meet the targets, experts have said.

The government seeks to reduce the percentage of households that use wood fuel for cooking, from 79.9 percent in 2017 to 42 percent by 2024.

It plans to collaborate with the private sector to facilitate a competition-based development of markets for clean cooking products and technologies based on the new Biomass Energy Strategy (2019-2030) developed by the Ministry of Infrastructure.

The Rwanda Energy Access and Quality Improvement Project (EAQIP) aims to increase access to clean cooking solutions for 500,000 households of approximately 2.1 million people. The $20 million project funded by the World Bank aims to subsidize the purchase of clean and efficient cooking solutions by eligible households.

According to Philbert Dusenge, a project coordinator at the Development Bank of Rwanda (BRD), the package aims to replace the use of firewood in rural areas and charcoal in urban areas by introducing more efficient stoves for clean cooking.

The money will be given to local manufacturers to improve product design and quality. Innovation grants will be provided through a competitive process to encourage innovative technologies, business and funding approaches.

However, Dusenge said, producers need training in terms of the aspect of financed projects to be able to access finance.

Theophile Dusengimana, environmental policy and climate change specialist at the Ministry of Environment, said the highly efficient stoves in demand on the market could reduce fuel use by 30-60 percent, reducing pressure on forests and climate-damaging emissions.

“Rwanda seeks to become a carbon-neutral and climate-resilient economy by 2050,” Dusengimana said, noting that increasing access to clean energy cooking technologies equally requires increased investment.

By 2030, he said, 80 percent of the rural population and 50 percent of urban residents will use efficient stoves.

For biomass substitution, he said, there is a need to create opportunities to invest in biomass substitution and to trigger or accelerate the transition to sustainable biomass value chains. Up to $1.37 billion in total investment is needed by 2030 to achieve the government’s target of reducing coal use from 83 percent to 42 percent of the population, Dusengimana said.

In rural areas, he said, there is a need for improved or efficient cooking stoves that use firewood, briquettes and pellets, as well as biogas and cooking gas. In urban areas and the commercial food industry, he noted, there is a need for cooking gas, electricity and improved cooking stoves that use pellets, wood and green charcoal.

Gas, electricity, improved institutional stoves and biogas are needed in public institutions while the processing and manufacturing sector (tea and brick factories) should use gasifiers, he said.

The $20 million project funded by the World Bank, Dusengimana said, could help address the affordability of clean cooking technologies.

“The Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA) will support the clean cooking transition and prioritize investments according to their ability to increase access to clean fuel, improve consumer safety and support decarbonisation,” he said. , making a case for government subsidies for clean cooking technologies.

The private sector and development partners, Dusengimana said, are key players in Rwanda’s development. As such, he noted, their growing role in promoting clean cooking is very important.

“They should develop competitive project proposals to take advantage of opportunities in the Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA) as well as other funding sources.”

Capacity building

Serge Muhizi, a project analyst at an association of private energy developers, said about 40 members were trained to invest in clean cooking technologies and how to easily access finance.

“There are over 130 companies in the association and the number continues to grow. So they need to invest in clean cooking technology to help the government meet its 2024 targets. But they need the capacity to know how to do that “We are training them on how to design banking projects that will be financed by banks such as BRD and other sources of financing,” he said.