Seize opportunities in energy sector

Wednesday April 14 2021
comment02pix

Author, Ms Diana N Nambi. PHOTO/FILE

By Guest Writer

Energy is a key driver for socio-economic transformation. According to the Third National Development Plan (NDP III), Energy development is fundamental for the exploitation of key growth opportunities. 

The Gender and Sustainable Energy Uganda Brief recently launched by the African Development Bank, Energia and the Climate Investment Funds shows that while there is strong policy and legal framework, with some institutional mechanisms to promote gender in the energy sector, gender mainstreaming needs to be strengthened.

This notwithstanding, the electricity supply industry has made commendable progress in making electricity accessible to consumers, providing women with the stage to exploit various growth opportunities and live better lives. 

The interventions to boost access to electricity have been possible due to a robust regulatory framework that has attracted close to $ 6 billion worth of private investments into the electricity supply industry. 

Today, Uganda has sufficient electricity supply, with an installed generation capacity of 1268.8 MW, with great effort being directed to improvements in the transmission and distribution networks for full utilisation of the energy generated. There has been significant investment in industrial parks, coupled with construction and or expansion/refurbishment of sub-stations to improve the reliability of the power supplied to both domestic and industrial end-users.

The government  has put in place initiatives to promote access to and use of electricity. At the domestic level, the lifeline tariff set by the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) enables the general public, including female-headed households to access electricity for essentials such as lighting to support home activities that include children doing homework. With a view to promote the use of electricity over biomass,  government is targeting the conversion of at least 500,000 households and 500 institutions to use electricity for cooking, through the charcoal to power project. This project is expected to lessen the health burden of the general public, including female-headed households and institutions that have hitherto suffered from the adverse effects of exposure to biomass energy. 

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At the industrial level, there are incentives for prospective women entrepreneurs to use electricity productively, for both personal development and social-economic transformation. The extra-large industrial consumer tariff category introduced by ERA in 2017 allows manufacturers to schedule their production processes at off-peak periods in order to benefit from the applicable tariff of  5 cents per unit of electricity consumed. 

The declining block tariff mechanism introduced by ERA in 2020 allows prospective women entrepreneurs to benefit from lower tariffs for the electricity consumed beyond a set monthly threshold. This results into lower marginal costs of production, capturing of bigger markets, increased production, and more competitiveness especially within the East African region.   Through the Energy Rebate Framework, prospective women entrepreneurs can extend power to their industrial premises and then get compensated for their approved investments. The compensation is undertaken by a distribution utility over time through offsets of monthly energy billed to the customer, subject to special conditions.

The Gender and Sustainable Energy Uganda Brief noted limited female representation in the energy sector, partly attributed to the limited number of women engaging in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) courses. The brief further noted that women are making inroads into the management of the sector.

In 2019, ERA  in partnership with other players in the energy sector launched the Women in Energy Project, aimed at inspiring and empowering young females in schools to embrace STEM and seize the various opportunities that the Sector presents. The project is already yielding positive results, with testimonies of improved performance by the young females in the schools the sector reached out to.
Females, young and old, are encouraged to take up the various opportunities presented by the energy sector.

Ms Diana N. Nambi is the manager public relations and consumer affairs, Electricity Regulatory Authority.

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