Energy efficient technologies cut electricity bill

A woman uses an energy saving stove to cook porridge. According to a 2022 SNV report, close to 90 percent of the population in Uganda cooks on open fires or inefficient cook stoves. PHOTO/MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

What you need to know:

  • Cleaner technologies have a higher calorific value, meaning more heat is generated to cook meals faster and suffer lower energy loss compared to traditional options.

Today, several people are changing their cooking habits by opting for clean cooking energy. This puts less pressure on the climate and environment.  

Cleaner technologies have a higher calorific value, meaning more heat is generated to cook meals faster and suffer lower energy loss compared to traditional options.

Based on World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, “clean” fuels and technologies in the context of indoor air quality and household fuel combustion include electric cookers, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), natural gas, biogas, solar, and ethanol-fuel stoves. However, the dirty fuels which emit smoke are mostly relied upon by households in villages, peri-urban and informal settlements. These include: charcoal, coal, crop waste, dry dung, kerosene and wood.

For Ms Sarah Babirye, using clean cooking has been time-saving.
“It takes less than 20 minutes to cook any meal, whether beans or rice.  This means that it is less costly and time saving,” Ms Babirye says.

She quickly notes that rather than spend a lot of time trying to light a charcoal stove, with e-cooking gadgets, it is done within a very short time.

“It is quite unfortunate that in this day and era a number of people are not aware of these technologies. Many people still practice deforestation, something that is highly impacting on our environment and contributing to an increase in global warming,” she explains.

In December 2021, Electricity Regulatory Authority- ERA introduced a new cooking tariff plan that is aimed at reducing electricity bills significantly for industries and domestic cooking. According to the new tariff structure, homeowners using electricity for cooking pay Shs412 per kilowatt-hour (unit).

The ‘domestic declining block tariff, will benefit domestic consumers who use electrify to cook and consume between 81kWh and 150kWh per month.

Currently, the domestic user pays a single tariff of Shs250 for the first 15 units under the Lifeline Tariff and thereafter Shillings 808.9 for the rest of the units, which is also the most expensive of all the consumer categories.

The Uganda Bureau of Statistics, 2021 report indicates that of the 94 percent Ugandan households that primarily depend on biomass, 73 percent use firewood while 21 percent use charcoal for cooking  and kerosene usage aacounts for 0.6 percent. 

Intensive charcoal production is depleting forests with the population set to double by 2050. Currently, only 1.4 percent of households in Uganda use electricity and alternative non-biomass fuels such as LPG as their primary cooking fuel.

Mr Jacob Etunganan, energy Efficiency expert, Inclusive Markets for Energy Efficiency in Uganda(IMEU), SNV The Netherlands Development Organisation says ‘catalysing energy efficiency markets in Uganda” involves saving energy, reducing your energy costs and saving the environment.

This means there is need to invest in energy efficient technologies and adopt best practices of energy saving. 
“We need energy for cooking, lighting, cooling, pumping, heating and adding value to all our products at home, business or factory; all these are costs we have to reduce.  We can only reduce through use of energy and adopting an efficient appliance, this energy could be electricity, charcoal, firewood, diesel/ petrol, LPG,” Etunganan says. 

There are multiple benefits of energy efficiency to government including optimised energy demand, reduced energy losses, increased business competitiveness, increase in employment opportunities for both men and women, reduced carbon emissions, reduced forest degradation due to increased efficient use of woody biomass, increased adoption of other renewable energy alternatives and increased energy access.
Viability of energy efficiency 
Etunganan notes that energy efficient options at household, commercial and industry levels are technically feasible, and financially viable as well as environmentally friendly based on the energy saving and emission reduction potential.

He adds: “We need to create awareness on the benefits of energy efficiency, increase availability/ reach of quality energy efficient appliances,  deploy appropriate financial products/ mechanisms for energy efficient appliances for different segments; and strengthen the institutional, policy and regulatory environment towards scaled adoption of energy efficient technologies and practices.”

There are a wide range of technologies available for energy efficiency ranging from improved charcoal/firewood cookstoves, energy efficient institutional cookstoves, energy efficient lights(LED), energy efficient refrigerators, energy efficient motors, energy efficient air conditioners, efficient solar heaters, solar PV lighting.

He further adds that practices such as switching off appliances when not in use, regular maintenance, right sizing of technology, user training, proper drying of firewood and regularly monitoring energy usage.

Jean Byamugisha, executive director of the Uganda Hotel Owners Association (UHOA), says that energy efficiency is certainly one of the solutions to boosting business competitiveness in Uganda.

“Uganda has got one of the highest energy tariffs in the world despite the fact that we even export electricity. Many of the big businesses heavily rely on constant and stable electricity. When this is lacking it’s an extra cost to the business which is usually reflected in the high cost of goods and services as it has to be borne by the final consumer. Addressing this brings down the cost of doing business which in turn boosts business competitiveness in the country,” Byamugisha says. 

Energy efficient technologies are a must for one to be competitive.
She notes: “They not only bring down the cost of doing business but in an industry like tourism they are now a requirement especially if one wants to do business with the international community who are now very keen on sustainability, recycling and use of clean energy in our businesses.”
Citing an example of solar which is a once off costs to the customer and without recurring monthly costs it brings down the cost of doing business.

Promoting energy efficiency 
The Swedish government working with the Dutch Agency SNV has earmarked over 3 billion shillings in a fund to support Small and Medium Enterprises, keen on the green economy; to catalyse Energy Efficiency Markets in Uganda. The funding is part of the growing efforts funded especially by Europe towards the energy and green transition.

Peace Kansiime, project manager, IMEU, says that the fund is going to be available to businesses and energy service providers to reach out to more people.

“For those that qualify, to assess the money based on the milestone payment or results in the business. If millers say that their biggest challenge was energy costs, we aim at giving energy efficient technologies  which will help you cut your costs, increase profitability and become more resilient,” she says. 

According to an SNV document released in August 2022 close to 90 percent of the population in Uganda cooks on open fires or inefficient cook stoves, causing significant health risks, and damage to the climate due to harmful emissions and deforestation. Including energy efficiency in the national planning process could increase energy access to 6 million rural customers and reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 10.6 million tonnes by 2030.

Phomolo Maphosa, country director, SNV Uganda while making a presentation about energy and  green transition urged Ugandans to embrace energy efficiency as an integrated cost-effective option to achieving an inclusive low carbon and climate resilient development that supports people and businesses to thrive in a changing climate world.