A local electrician in Kirehe region in Rwanda, Israel Habimana,has used hydroelectricity to build a better future for his neighbors. These dams divert rivers into canals that feed a dam, which in turn feeds a small power plant through a pipeline.
The distance between the water basin and Israel Habimana’s Nyagakoma hydroelectric facility is 2.5 kilometers. The Rwandan government aspires to provide energy to houses without it by enabling small independent power generators to establish themselves there.
The hydropower facility that Habimana opened has 15 workers in total. He claims that although the company’s investment has not yet paid off, people’s lives are already being changed.
Habimana was inspired to use hydropower after observing a similar setup close to the Rwandan capital of Kigali. According to him, people in this area have just recently had electricity, and many of them perished before experiencing it.
“The idea of building this infrastructure came to me when I saw a lot of lamps in Kibungo and then a small power station that I had seen at the religious house.”
Even though he never attended school, Habimana persisted in pursuing his interests even though they were quite challenging for him. “I often visited the mini hydroelectric plant of religious people without telling them my objective, and I observed how the machines worked and I did the same thing,” he says.
A government-owned company called the Rwanda Energy Group was established to import, export, produce, and distribute power in the nation. According to its CEO Ron Weiss, at the time, only Habimana could have given the neighborhood any possibility of receiving energy.
“We supported him (Israel Habimana), we even helped him in different ways, even we encourage him to continue because this specific area of Kirehe in that time we need electricity and the grid is not yet coming nearby,” he remarked.
Habimana claims there have been certain challenges despite receiving funding from the government-owned Rwanda Energy Group (REG).
“The challenges I have are mostly related to the availability of materials, especially cables. Often REG (Rwanda Energy Group) gives me these materials but not all the time. Also, it is difficult for me to increase the capacity of my infrastructure because the demand is high and my revenues are not significant,” he explains.
New companies have popped up in the neighborhood since electricity was introduced, but in Nyawera, at least 120 homes are still without power since the plant is too small to provide everyone who needs it.
The Rwanda Energy Group (REG) has published figures showing that from 10% in 2010 to 75% in 2022, the proportion of households with access to electricity has risen across the nation. Over two million homes are already connected nationwide, yet at least 1.4 million families still lack access.