Posted by: apscott | May 27, 2008

Underwater Gas to Save Africa?

It seems Rwanda might have hit the Jackpot. Relatively speaking of course…

In a recent post “An Unlikely Hero,” I discussed the immense opportunity Rwandan women have presented themselves through the micro-finance of entrepreneurial endeavors. The initiative set forth by these women showed the upside of a risk-reward situation. Now, an even greater opportunity may lie ahead, and thus an ever greater risk-reward.

In the Wall Street Journal blog today, Keith Johnson writes about a topic bridging both concepts of Green Business and African Enterprise.  Johnson notes a vast source of methane found deep down in Lake Kivu.  While this deposit of methane poses an imminently fatal threat to the 2 million lakeside dwellers, it also provides access to an opportunity for affordable electricity in an area void of such access.

‘Hoping to avert a catastrophe on the shores of a lake where 2 million people live and to solve its energy woes at the same time, the Rwandan government is embarking on a risky project to extract the methane and use it to generate electricity. Methane-power generation plants exist elsewhere, but the effort here is the first attempt to extract the gas from underwater and burn it to fuel an electricity plant. “It’s the first of its kind in the world,” said Albert Butare, Rwanda’s minister of state for infrastructure. “In the beginning, it was a myth. But now the technology is promising.”’

The World Bank estimated the pilot projects could produce electricity for about 6 or 7 cents per kilowatt hour. That would be competitive even in the U.S.—and a quarter the price of electricity produced by diesel generators, which Rwanda has relied on for its power production.

the principles of Moral Capitalism are exemplified in this article in a crossroad between Green Business and African Enterprise. As Johnson stated, “often, developing countries have to choose between the environment and electricity—with one predictable loser.” It seems a win-win situation has arisen in Rwanda.  The environment and development have found a rare intersection with Moral Capitalism in which both will come out successful at Lake Kivu. It seems the risk-reward situation is actually a no risk situation, as the only potential loss will be in any inaction to take advantage of this opportunity.

Investors like Vinod Khosla should be all over this opportunity as they will be able to leave their mark in an inevitably needed industry throughout this increasingly prosperous area.

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