Rwanda: Reducing the Vulnerability of Rwanda's Energy Sector to the Impacts of Climate Change

Project Snapshot

  • Timeframe: June 2005 to June 2010

  • Location: Burera and Musanze districts, Northern Province, Rwanda

  • Summary: The pilot project sought to increase the resilience of Rwanda’s hydroelectric power sector by: demonstrating village-level activities that contribute to restoration of the Ruguzi–Burera–Ruhundo watershed and increase local resilience to climate change; improving the management of two of Rwanda’s hydroelectric power plants; and promoting the integration of climate change considerations into Rwanda’s national energy and sustainable development policies.

  • Local Executing Agency: Kigali Institute of Science and Technology

  • Funders: Global Environment Facility, Government of the Netherlands and the Government of Norway

Pilot Project Profile

The Ntaruka and Mukungwa hydropower stations are Rwanda’s main source of electricity. Located in Northern Province and supplied by Lake Burera and Lake Ruhundo respectively, the productive capacity of these hydropower stations declined significantly in the mid-2000s due to falling lake water levels. Although the Ntaruka and Mukungwa stations collectively had the potential to produce 23.5 megawatts of power, they were then producing only about one-quarter of this amount. This decline in production significantly affected Rwanda’s energy security and its economic development aspirations.

Recognizing that climate change could lead to similar drops in water levels and restrictions in electricity production, the Government of Rwanda initiated a pilot project designed to increase the resilience of Rwanda's energy sector. This pilot project formed part of the regional project “Integrating Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change into Sustainable Development Policy Planning and Implementation in Eastern and Southern Africa” (ACCESA).

The pilot project was designed to build the resilience of Rwanda’s hydroelectric sector by achieving the following objectives:

1. Restore and protect the watershed supporting the Ntaruka and Mukungwa hydroelectric facilities while helping to improve the livelihoods of local communities living within these watersheds, thereby reducing their vulnerability to the impacts of climate change;

2. Integrate climate change considerations into the management and operation of Rwanda’s hydroelectric power plants; and

3. Promote the integration of vulnerability and adaptation to climate change into energy and sustainable development plans and processes in Rwanda.

These objectives were to be achieved by completing the following combination of field- and policy-level activities:

1. Watershed Component – Promoting ecologically sensitive livelihood activities within the watershed region supplying the Ntaruka and Mukungwa power stations. Working in selected villages in the watershed, planned actions included: the establishment of nurseries in which climate-resilient trees would be grown; associated tree planting; construction of erosion-control structures; provision of technical and financial support for beekeeping and livestock operations; and training and provision of energy-efficient cook stoves and alternative energy sources.

2. Hydropower Component – Improving the management and operation of the power stations. A series of training and technical assistance activities would be undertaken with station operators and managers to improve operation and maintenance of the stations; and with decision-makers in the Ministry of Infrastructure to facilitate the integration of climate change consideration into the management of Rwanda’s hydroelectric sector.

3. Policy Component – Recommending policy changes, particularly with respect to implementation of Rwanda’s national Energy Policy, which will safeguard the long-term sustainability of hydropower use in Rwanda. At the national level, the project aimed to generate information about climate change to help integrate this knowledge into energy and sustainable development policies. At the district level, the pilot project team also sought to incorporate climate change considerations into annual performance contracts.

In 2007, activities related to the watershed component of the pilot project began to be undertaken. Working in two villages in the districts of Burera and Musanze, sector officials and community members:

Unfortunately, due to a combination of factors, implementation of the project’s watershed level activities ceased in late 2008. Although efforts were made to revitalize the pilot project in 2009, its implementation formally ended in February 2010.


Further information about Rwanda’s efforts to restore the generating capacity of the Ntaruka and Mukungwa hydropower stations through better management of the Ruguzi–Burera–Ruhundo watershed may be found in the case study Maintenance of Hydropower Potential in Rwanda through Ecosystem Restoration. Prepared by Hilary Hove, Jo-Ellen Parry and Nelson Lujara, this case study was included the 2010–11 World Resources Report.

For more information about this project, please contact:

Jo-Ellen Parry, Deputy Director, Climate Change and Energy, IISD