Kivu lakeMethane
Gas Extraction
Putting methane
to work
Natural hazards


Rwanda is currently confronted with an energy supply problem without precedence.

The energy situation of Rwanda can rapidly be resumed. For almost the entire population, wood is the unique energy source available : it represents 93% of the country's energy consumption.

This fact leads to the conclusion that at current rates of exploitation of wood resources reserves will be totally exhausted between 2010 and 2015 and that the ecological balance - and following from that, the economic balance - will be drastically disrupted.

Hills entirely deforested to enable crop growing.

Economic and financial problems

On the economic level the importing of petroleum products literally strangles the country's development efforts. The cost of importing fuel represented 40% of the commercial balance of the country when a barrel of oil was at US$30. We don't have the latest prices but the barrel rose to $40 in May 2004 and has crashed through the symbolic barrier of $50 today (29th September 2004) The economic press is already talking about it stabalising around $60. Rwanda is a profoundly landlocked country in the African continent and transport from the methane-ports of Mombasa or Dar es-Salaam approximately doubles the cost of fuel brought to Kigali.


Environmental and ecological problems
(deforestation and soil erosion)

As in many developing countries, agriculture in Rwanda is the main resource for families. Apart from food crops, Rwanda mostly produces tea and coffee, which between them represent not less than 90% of exports. The extending of cultivatable land, which is indispensible to feed an exploding population, has as a consequence the rapid destruction of forests and following on from that, the erosion and impoverishment of the soil.


Energy consumption in Rwanda is greatly inferior to that needed for industrialisation. The required minimum is generally thought to be 0.6 tep per person per year, whereas at the moment available energy is of the order of 0.16 tep per person per year ! Today 80% of electricity consumed is by the capital city, Kigali, where only 5% of the population live. In 2004 Rwanda plunged into a deep crisis in the electricity supply. The shortage, which was predictable given the rapid economic development of the country, was aggravated by low rainfall, not enough to refill the reservoirs for the hydroelectric dams. An energy policy aimed at the restoration of the national grid was implemented by Electrogaz, with the acquisition of deisel generators with a total power of 12.8 MW. This installation was decided upon in order to attend to the most important things first. However, these fuel-oil powered generators will put a further strain on the national budget.

Social problem (increasing shortage of wood for cooking at home)

Rwanda is a small central African country of 26,000 square kilometers with the highest population density in Africa (300 inhabitants per square kilometre). This population is mainly concentrated in the rural areas : in fact only 6% of the population live in urban areas. The typical traditional settlement in Rwanda consisting of isolated farmhouses, this making long-term development difficult, due to the number of places to be developed. After the tragic events of 1994, the present government has made it a priority to regroup the population in order to promote health and education programmes in a targetted and efficient manner. This volontarist policy should facilitate the setting up of a realistic programme of education (schools), health (dispensaries) and religious affairs (churches). The setting up of small production units for gas or electricity could be a natural spur to this policy of population regrouping.


Consumption by energy source in rwanda in 1996.



All the above comments make clear the inequality of access to the country's energy and the consequences of such inequality on the lifestyle of the population.
In the present context, the access of all people to energy has become a real battle for high stakes which would aid Rwanda's development and improve the living conditions of the population. And there is no doubt that it is access to energy which is in question here, because Rwanda disposes of an enormous but unexploited energy source in the reserves of methane gas in Lake Kivu.
Lake Kivu, in the west of Rwanda, is unique in the world in one particular : its deep waters contain an enormous quantity of dissolved gas. There are, in fact, 50 billion cubic metres of exploitable methane, the equivalent of 40 million tons of oil (tep), lying dormant at the bottom of the lake at a depth of 250 m.
This godsend, if it were made the most of, would give Rwanda an almost inexhaustible energy source and would free it from worrying about the energy needs linked to development projects.
Note, moreover, that the lake is continually recharging with gas. The rate of recharging can be estimated at between 125 and 250 million cubic metres per year.

Lake Kivu : source of life, source of methane ?


Rwanda is a dynamic country which is trying to speed up development after the events of 1994. Unfortunately, this attempt is made difficult by serious deficiences in the availability of energy resources. Access to energy is still generally through the traditional resource : wood. This custom has led Rwanda to destroy the principle part of its non-protected forests and to find itself confronted with a desperate environmental situation. If nothing is done, this massive deforestation will automatically come to end in the coming years through lack of wooded areas. The extraction of methane, a cheap and practically inexhaustible energy source, should help to safeguard Rwanda's natural resources, currently threatened by an intensive and uncontrolled over-exploitation.