Military installations, bases and barracks across the country will in the near future be solely powered by solar energy, saving the Ministry of Defence billions of shillings spent annually on paying electricity bills.
According to the Minister of Defence and Veterans Affairs, Mr Adolf Kasaija Mwesige, one of the ministry’s straining areas has been the cost of utilities, with the electricity bills topping the stress table.
“We have been incurring an astronomic bill of Shs19.7 billion annually against a budget provision of Shs7.4 billion, which is unsustainable deficit of 63 per cent,” the chief guest at the site inspection of the 516kwp plant, Mr Mwesige said mid-last week at Kololo in Kampala where the pilot project is being undertaken.
He continued: “In view of this high electricity bills deficit, the ministry is exploring energy cost saving measures by harnessing solar power, guided by President Museveni. We embarked on the project for installation of solar power in army barracks.”
As a result, a pilot project contracted to a renewable energy company, Nexus Green, currently rigorously testing the infrastructure, before being rolled out to other military installations across the country. Upon completion, it is expected to generate 516kilowatt of power (kW) at a cost of slightly more than Shs5.8 billion.
Speaking in an interview, the chairperson of Nexus Green, Ms Baroness Verma, a company that deals in renewable energy, noted that so far, all is going well and that once testing of the facility is completed, it will be operational.
She said: “The project is close to completion. We are now testing our equipment at Kololo where we have the solar panels, the first hybrid solar project in Uganda.”
She continued: “This means the cost as well as dependency on dirty and expensive fuels will reduce, jobs will also be created and the population will be empowered. We want to train people on how to protect resources and we will also encourage other investors to come to Uganda.”
Uganda is endowed with renewable energy resources for energy production and the provision of energy services. The total estimated potential according to the International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications 2018, is about 5,300 MW.
Renewable energy such as solar remain largely untapped. This is due to the perceived technical and financial risks. Hydro and biomass still dominates electricity generation.
However, in the recent past as exemplified by Nexus Green, solar power has been receiving increasing attention from investors.
Solar energy in Uganda is mainly being used with appropriate technology for cooking food, water heating, refrigeration, lighting and telecommunications among others.
Industry expert say solar is becoming an important source of electricity because of the escalating tariffs and the scarcity of electricity from the conventional hydro and thermal power generation in the country.
In the last two financial year’s budget speech, the government noted that the use of renewable energy such as solar system for lighting rural homes and for the national grid is being implemented.
According to International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, 2018, given that the country lies along the equator, it therefore has a very high potential for solar energy production.
The publication further noted that the government has started various projects on solar energy production, though it’s not able to meet the demand especially in the rural areas of the country that are mostly not connected to national electricity grids.