Uganda’s energy sector grows despite challenges - Daily Monitor

Uganda’s energy sector grows despite challenges

Wednesday November 26 2014

By Lominda Afedraru

Uganda’s population is estimated at 34.9 million people and is growing at a rate of 3.5 percent per annum. Most of this population is educated and economically active.

 The Ugandan economy has been one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, with an average growing rate of 6.4 percent for the last eight years.

 This represents an increase in the potential market for energy of 2% per month. Though this population has been dependent on rudimental methods of biomass for their energy needs, the economically active and progressive lot is desirous of adopting advanced forms of biomass that are energy efficient, highly combustible and smoke free.

 Investment opportunities exist for developing renewable energy sources to provide electricity and the potential for private sector participation is quite significant in both rural and urban electrification.

 This is especially relevant in Uganda where the level of electrification is very low with only 5% of the population connected to the national grid.

 There is a large potential market for micro hydropower and solar energy in Uganda and the region. Most households could be beneficiaries of Micro hydro power and solar energy.

Micro hydropower and solar energy could also be used in small industries to run agro processing machinery and in the telecommunication industry for powering remote Base Stations which are off the main grid

 Opportunities also abound in the manufacture and marketing of charcoal briquettes. The briquettes are best for the institutional markets, because they can directly substitute wood without modification to the stoves.

 Schools, restaurants, hospitals, among other institutions are potential markets and future opportunities will be there especially if the Government and local authorities decide to further enforce the restriction on cutting down trees

 According to the 2012 statistics from Uganda Investment Authority detailing energy supply in the country, it states that the domestic market in Uganda notwithstanding indicates a great export market potential in the East African Community and the great lakes region.

Out of the 5% national only 2% rural households are connected to the national grid which is unreliable characterized by load shedding and continuous power outages.

 The demand and consumption of fuel wood and charcoal is increasing with the increasing rural and urban population.

 Household consumption of charcoal has doubled while the use of firewood increased by almost 70 percent.

 The abundant sun light in Uganda presents wonderful prospects for harnessing solar energy for use in homes, businesses and institutions.

There are governments and donor funded projects and programs to facilitate uptake and utilization of solar energy but solar technology for electricity generation is wanting.

The team manning the energy sector at the ministry are very optimistic that as compared to previous years, the sector has experienced tremendous growth despite the numerous challenges.

The Ministry handles matters such as energy policy, investment in mining, the establishment of new power generating infrastructure using hydro power, thermal power, solar power and nuclear power

Apart from the Nalubaale power station that existed before, currently the two largest power development projects in the country are the 250MW Bujagali power station which came online in 2011 and the 750MW Karuma station coming online in 2016

The ministry is also considering the viability of a nuclear powered electricity producing plant.

The ministry handles the different sectors namely Energy Resources, Geological Survey and Mines, Petroleum Exploration, Production and Supplies.

The petroleum supply department core function is to inspect and monitor the operations of private oil companies with respect to volumes, prices, product quality, and safety of operations, technical and environmental standards.

Currently the ministry is also encouraging Ugandans to use renewable energy which include solar energy, wind energy, biomass energy and geothermal energy generated by private service providers.

The 2009 energy report by the line ministry states that the country has an average of 5-6 KWh/m2/day of solar insulation, with an average of 8 sunshine hours per day, yearly, indicating an excellent potential for solar energy use. 

Solar energy is currently used primarily for off network electrification for rural communities, as well as for solar cooking, and providing water heating and power to public buildings, like hospitals.

An estimated 200 MW of potential electrical capacity are available in Uganda, and currently, a 50MW solar thermal plant, at Namugoga in Wakiso District, is being investigated by a private firm, Solar Energy for Africa.

For wind energy, wind average speeds are estimated to be 3-3.5 m/s, indicating a moderate potential for wind power.

Small industries in rural areas, where targets for a mill range from 2.5KV to 10KV, could benefit from the wind resource.

Bioenergy, apart from hydropower, is considered to be the second significant pillar to secure energy supply, particularly in rural areas.

The transition from traditional biomass, which is often perceived as inefficient, to modern biomass and biofuel production and consumption is a main focal area of the government.

Kakira Sugar Works Limited and Kinyara Sugar Limited are both licensed to generate electricity for sale to the national grid from biogases, providing 12 MW and 5 MW respectively.  

Biomass cogeneration from agricultural wastes is seen to hold particular promise as a technology for the country, and a significant peat resource also exists, of which approximately 25 million tones is feasibly available for power generation, equivalent to 800 MW of potential capacity for the next 50 years.

A limited program of biogas digester distribution was undertaken in the 1990s, and 50 digesters were installed in five districts in the country by 2004.
 In the areas of geothermal the country has an estimated geothermal resource potential of 450 MW, mainly located in the Western Rift valley part of the country  covering towns like Katwe Kikorongo, Buranga and Kibiro
The report states that despite Uganda’s vast hydropower potential, estimated at 3000 MW, less than 10% is currently exploited.

A number of small hydropower plants, with total installed capacity of slightly over 15MW, are in operation in various parts of the country.

The 2011/2012 report by the line ministry which is highlighting the sector performance indicates that the installed capacity of large hydro power comprise of 630 MW with current generation capacity of 200mw, mini hydro installation capacity comprised of 56.5mw with current generation capacity of 23.5mw.

The statistics further indicates that installed hydro thermal capacity comprised of 100mw with the current generation capacity of 48 to 50 mw, installed diesel generators capacity is 2.5mw and installed Biomass power is 29.5 mw with the current 8 mw capacity.

The actual peak demand of power is 487 mw and Umeme is upgrading more installation capacity in an effort to reduce the technical losses and shortages.

The State minister for energy engineer Simon D’Ujanga while explaining the sector performance said in 1986 the electricity generation capacity stood at 60 megawatts compared to the current 877 megawatts an initiative both by the private public partnership.

He said in the petroleum sector, where the country is depending on imported petroleum products, the recent oil discovery in the Albertine region indicates that already 73 oil wells are being explored and the country is moving towards the production process by next year. 

Energy distribution is manned by the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) which was created by the Electricity Act of 1999 as an agency of the ministry of energy and mineral development

The Uganda Electricity Transformation Company Ltd (UETCL) which was created by act of parliament in 2001 with the mandate of providing adequate transmission capacity to evacuate power generations from other private service providers.

The 2011/12 report states that UETCL for the last five years has purchased power from a number of companies like Bujagali Energy limited and Eskom Uganda limited who are biggest suppliers followed by thermal companies like Jacobsen Namanve, Electromaxx.

The report indicates that in 2011 UETCL purchased a total of 2,503,975 mw from various sellers compared to the 2007 purchases which amounted 1, 893,237 mw

The report indicates that hydro electrification is mostly consumed by people living in urban areas with most rural people relying on solar energy.

Companies such as Barefoot Power Uganda are now training young entrepreneurs to move door to door selling solar energy items in various rural areas in the country.

One such a person is Mr Emmanuel Mwesigye a young graduate after who after finishing his degree course in accounting abandoned the idea of looking for white colour jobs but decided to concentrate on this business.

He says he supplies individuals and NGO’s in various districts in the country with solar items such as Firefly mobile family which contains portable desk lamps, Firefly mobile Ultra Torch whose lighting potential can last up to eight years, Power pack 5W led lamps and Power pack village kit which comprises of seven lighting points and the lighting tubes are more efficient and brighter.

“I used to sell my solar lighting equipments in a small table stall on the streets of Kampala but I was identified by Barefoot Company whose management trained me in ways of how to manage my business which is the case of the expansion of the business. I have since expanded my product line and I move from one district to another especially those in the rural areas like Nakaseke, Bugiri and Luwero where solar energy is needed most,” he said.

Barefoot Uganda training manager, Mr Neil Frank Yiga said his team identifies hard working entrepreneurs who already have their products and businesses but lack some business management skills and trains them for four days before they purchase their products to be sold in areas within their vicinity