“Access to modern forms of energy transforms people. It changes the way they behave, improves their level of productivity and liberates the marginalized in society,” said Irene Muloni, Uganda’s Minister for Energy and Mineral Development last year at a Symposium on Universal Energy Access to Uganda.
Hon. Muloni confirming Uganda’s National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) report that Uganda loses over 6000 hectares of trees every 30 days, it is needless to point out that majority of Ugandans depend of wood for fuel. This includes not just the rural population but the urban ones as well.
In fact by 2007, only 4% of renewable energy was being used in Uganda. This implies that over 90% of the population was relying on non-renewable resources. This is the case irrespective of the fact that in 2005, Uganda’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development introduced an annual campaign called the “Energy Efficiency Week” now known as “Energy Week” that focuses on sustainable use of energy and energy access. This energy campaign, among other concerns, highlights the importance of sustainable use of energy as essential to human health and protection of the environment. Its intention to enlighten many Ugandans seems to have fallen on deaf ears but perhaps that is because not as much effort has been put in to reach out to the more rural population that needs this information.
Uganda being a developing countries, renewable energy promises a much cheaper solution to its energy in adequacies throughout the country and it isn’t too late. The Renewable Energy Network in its report covering the past decade alone showed a remarkable shift from a mere 3% global use of renewable energy to almost 22% renewable energy use today. These statistics only go to highlight the fact that it is indeed possible to shift and shift quickly to clean renewable energy.
In fact Uganda should draw inspiration from her very neighbors Kenya, Rwanda and the not so far away ambitious Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s climate change commitment indicates that by 2025, Ethiopia will be using 100% renewable energy. It is unfortunate that despite her pledge, Uganda has up to date not tabled her Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) yet.
The trouble with Uganda is she has double standards. On one hand, she is committed to fighting climate change and on the other hand, she’s drawing plans on how to maximally exploit her newly found oil wells. She promises to commit to renewable energy and at the very same time compromises the same.
In spite of all that, Uganda set the Renewable Energy Policy which aims to increase Uganda’s use of modern renewable energy from 4% to 61% of the total energy consumption by the year 2017. One of Uganda’s need to develop this policy is based on the fulfillment of her commitment to greenhouse gas emission reductions (GHGs) under the Kyoto protocol and to contribute to the fight against climate change.
Implementation is underway with some districts catching on with the renewable energy era with very ambitious plans. Godfrey Baluku Kime, the Mayor of Kasese, one of Uganda’s districts in the far west is determined to shift his entire district to 100% renewable energy access by 2020. With 99% of households in his district depending on wood for fuel, he says they will use faecal matter to produce cheap energy. He plans to diversify energy supply sources like biomass, solar, geothermal and mini hydroelectric technologies. Already, he boasts of the installation of 240 solar units.
In Eastern Uganda, a consortium of Simba Telecom and Building Energy SPA along with another consortium from UAE and Spain have been licensed to invest $38million in two solar power plants in two districts Soroti and Tororo. They will generate 20MW of electricity with each KWH costing USD 11 cents which will be more affordable to most Ugandans. The first unit will be on the national grid by the end of 2015.
In light of Uganda’s duty to its people, Objective XXVIII (ii) of the Constitution of Uganda states that utilization of natural resources shall be managed in such a way as to meet development and environmental needs of present and future generations of Ugandans and that the state will take all possible measures to prevent or minimize damage and destruction to land, air, water resources resulting from pollution or other causes. Clause (iii) further mandates the state to promote and implement energy policies that will ensure that people’s basic needs and those of environmental preservation are met.
Therefore to move Uganda from her current situation of just 15% being able to access electricity, to a majority, if not 100% access to not just electricity but electricity from renewable energy, more than just “talking” has to be done. To government must prevent the impending climate change catastrophe that not only threatens human life but the very means through which her people derive their livelihood. Renewable energy needs to become Uganda’s priority.