On June 30, 2015, the government through the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) launched a programme to distribute light emitting diodes also known as low energy light bulbs, (LED) to domestic electricity users.
The distribution programme is being implemented together with energy distributor Umeme. Every household with a Umeme account will receive three LED bulbs in exchange for their current energy saver bulbs.
However, while some people do not know about these bulbs, electricity consumers like Sheila Nakanyike, a trader in Kikuubo Business Centre, who have used LED bulbs, are full of praises for them.
“I have four of them and my electricity bill has greatly reduced,” she says. “Although I bought my bulbs at Shs20,000 each, I am happy that the government is distributing them to the public. And I would encourage anyone who has difficulty paying their electricity bill to use them.”
Longer life span
Stephen Ilungole, media manager, Umeme Limited, says LED bulbs have energy saving qualities.
“These bulbs use seven watts on average, while the ordinary energy saver bulbs use about 20 watts. A consumer who used LED bulbs will have their lighting power consumption reduced by 85 per cent.”
“With the conventional incandescent bulbs (of 60 watts and above) a consumer will spend up to Shs180,000 to light three bulbs in a year. While with LED bulbs, the same number will cost Shs18,000 over the same period,” he explains.
LED bulbs have a long lifespan of up to eleven years of continuous use. This means that with the three free bulbs, a consumer would not need to buy bulbs for a long time.
If the bulbs have a 50 per cent usage, their lifespan can increase to 22 years. This is beneficial to homes where the lights are only put on when necessary.
Julius Wandera, manager, consumer and public affairs, ERA, says the bulbs are environmentally friendly because they are free from toxic chemicals.
“Most conventional fluorescent lighting bulbs contain a multitude of materials like mercury which are dangerous to the environment. LED lights on the other hand are 100 per cent recyclable, and do not contain mercury.”
Wandera adds that the fact that LED bulbs do not have filaments makes them withstand a greater intensity of vibration and shock, than standard bulbs. This makes them an ideal choice for security lights since they are used in all weather conditions.
About 90 per cent of the electrical energy used by the LED bulb is converted into light, while 10 per cent is lost as heat. In contrast, an incandescent bulb uses about 5 per cent of the electricity to generate light and 95 per cent to generate heat. This is money wasted in high consumption.
But dispite the advantages of LED bulbs, people like Muhammad Muwonge are skeptical about receiving the new bulbs. A landlord in Katooke, Nansana, with ten tenants, Muwonge says he never received the previous energy savers which are being phased out.
“No one in this area received those bulbs so our tenants use the normal light bulbs which consume a lot of electricity. Besides, because the house was built with a low ceiling, they emit a lot of heat making the nights uncomfortable.”
“Any bulbs that are seven watts will be replaced or accepted in exchange for three LED super energy savers,” says Illungole.
This means that the majority of the population, who still use incandescent bulbs, which are above 40 watts, may miss out on the distribution and continue to pay higher electricity costs.
Currently, a unit of electricity costs Shs544.3, but this is set to change in the near future.
Success of the previous campaign
In 2007, the government distributed 800,000 energy saver bulbs. The 20 watt energy saver light bulbs replaced the 100 watts ordinary bulbs that had been on the market, while the 14 watts energy savers replaced the 60-75 watts bulbs.
Illungole adds that, “It was a successful campaign and the estimated reduction in energy consumption was 30 Giga Watt hours.”
Importation of ordinary bulbs
Only three LED bulbs will be distributed, but there are homes in which up to twelve bulbs are used. This puts the population at risk from unscrupulous dealers who will be looking to cash in on a ready market by distributing fake bulbs.
Illungole adds that, “Although we cannot dictate the price of bulbs on the market, the Ministry of Energy is planning to work with the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) to begin Pre-import Verification for Conformity (PIVoC) on all bulbs entering Uganda to weed out those which are dangerous to the environment. With this partnership, the importation of ordinary bulbs will soon be history.”
Good news to industrial sector
“When domestic consumers begin using LED bulbs, the government will save up to 30 Mega Watts of electricity,” says Wandera.
“This will free up the much needed energy for industrial use. As you may be aware, there are several industries in the pipeline as per the status availed by the Uganda Investment Authority, that will need power in a year or two.”
Lawrence Oketcho, the head of policy and advocacy at the Uganda Manufacturers Association, welcomes the move.
“If you follow the current trends, you will realise that the industrial sector is growing and we need more electricity. 30 Mega Watts is more than what we would get from a mini hydro dam, so this would be good for us as a sector.”
However, even if the quantity of electricity is settled, quality is another thing.
“For this electricity to benefit us, it has to be stable, the voltage should be enough, and load shedding should be at a minimum level. The tariffs at which ERA is giving us the electricity will also matter.”
The benefits of LED bulbs are myriad to the domestic consumer. And if the distribution moves upcountry, it will ensure that people, even in villages, can afford to use electricity for lighting.
On the other hand, freeing up more electricity for the industrial sector will boost it, and encourage an increase in exports and offer employment opportunities for Ugandan youth.
Distribution of LED bulbs began on July 6. They began in Kawempe and will work their way through Kampala and outskirts. They are visiting area by area as long as the house has an account with Umeme. They will exchange three energy savers for three LED bulbs and they are planning on distributing 420,000 bulbs.