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Rwanda - CIC

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Impact of Monitors on Energy Consumption
Impact of Fuel Costs
Impact of Monitors on Total Energy Costs


In Rwanda, the Academy for Educational Development has helped establish three entrepreneur-owned Community Internet Centers (CICs) through its dot-ORG program. The first two CICs were established in Gitarama, Nyanza. A third CIC was later established in Nyamata. While all three are connected to the national electricity grid, frequent power outages and poor quality power were adversely affecting the operating performance of the centers. The graphs below show the impact of such unreliable power supply on the CIC's monthly revenues.


To mitigate the technical and consequent financial risks associated with unreliable energy supply and guarantee a minimum 10 hours of operation daily, dot-ORG asked Winrock International and local partner ESDA (Energy for Sustainable Development Africa) provided technical support for the implementation of grid-charged battery back-up systems for the telecenters. Photovoltaics and generator-based hybrid systems were also considered.

Depending on the location, energy service from the grid was available for as low as 5 hours a day. Outages in Gitarama and Nyanza were more severe than in Nyamata for example.

The availability problem is compounded by the fact that even during periods of power availability, serious under voltages of as low as 170 VAC are experienced for up to one third of the availability period. The power quality is not only harmful to the computers but provides an additional challenge in the selection of a robust and appropriate charging mechanism of the planned energy back-ups to provide the required additional 6 hours of power for the telecenters.

Of special concern in the Gitarama and Nyanza areas is the high prevalence and risk of lightning strikes. These areas are prone to lightning strikes and require special attention especially in the definition of back-up system components and accessories.

The three CICs are equipped with 10 computers and some peripherals. While the CICs in Gitarama and Nyanza have CRT monitors, the CIC in Nyamata was equipped with more energy efficient LCD monitors (see LCD and CRT monitors in THE BASICS).

What difference do monitors really make? Try a Learning Tool and see for yourself how much less energy is required when CRT monitors are replaced by either 15" LCD monitors or 17" LCD monitors.

Comparing Energy Solutions

While photovoltaics was initially also considered as an option, the detailed analysis focused on combinations of battery backup systems and generators to supplement the supply from the grid. The costs associated with three different options were compared.

Option A

Grid + charged battery backup system

Option B

Grid + Diesel generator with storage

Option C

Grid + diesel generator without storage




The total costs indicated above include all capital costs and three years of operational costs.

The graph below show that while initial investment costs are lowest for option C, which relies entirely on the generator to supplement the grid, the total costs over three year are the highest for the three solutions. This may not always be the case and is very dependent on the cost of fuel.

Option A, which consists in using a battery backup system to supplement the grid is the most cost-effective solution. While it has significant upfront capital investment costs, the operations and maintenance costs are low. This option was selected for all three CICs.

However, the success of this option is dependent on capturing a reliable amount of energy from the grid on a daily basis in order to charge the batteries. Should the grid fail to supply the required minimums, a generator could be added to handle the shortfall (Option B).

Cost comparison
These calculations are made based on local fuel costs.
Would you like to see more detailed calculations and
to test the impact of fuel costs on the cost comparison? Click here.

Replacing Monitors
The cost calculations presented above are based on the initial computer configuration in Nyanza and Gitarama where CRT monitors are used. However, given the potential savings associated with LDC monitors, another set of calculations were computed. What would be the energy cost savings associated with replacing CRT monitors with LCD monitors under the three energy options considered above? If CRT monitors were replaced with LCD monitors, the overall energy load would be significantly lower. A lower energy requirement may result in lower initial investment costs if the system is smaller, and in lower operation and maintenance costs if a it means that a battery back-up solution without generator backup can supply the demand. See the detailed cost calculations associated with replacing the CRT monitors with LCD monitors.


  • Initial investment costs of the battery-inverter system was much higher than the cost of a used back-up generator, but generator fuel and maintenance costs made the battery-inverter backup system more cost-effective than a generator over a 3-year period.

  • The battery-inverter system boosted the hi-tech image of the CICs and helped attract more customers. Competing telecenters that operated noisy backup generators began losing customers to the CICs because of the quiet atmosphere of the CICs.

  • By purchasing LCD screens instead of CRT monitors, the new CIC in Nyamata was able to reduce its daily energy demand enough to consider running a television, VCR, fan and small refrigerator on backup power as well as ten computers, a printer, a VSAT and lights.

  • Applicability to similar projects in other locations: The battery-inverter power backup solution designed for this project may be appropriate for other telecenters of similar size (about 10 computers) with limited access to AC electricity from a grid or other source.

  • Battery-inverter back-up power systems are more likely to present a competitive option when the following conditions exist:
    • Electricity is available from the grid or another source for several hours each day.
    • Diesel/gasoline prices are high.
    • The energy demand of the telecenter is less than 10-15 kWh/day
    • There is a well-developed renewable energy market, so that both equipment and technical support are available at competitive prices.

Overall costs are not necessarily the primary decision factor. Other strategic considerations include availability of financing, low-power telecenter equipment packages, and availability of local technical assistance.