By Brian K Katabazi
The energy sector plays a key role as one of the major sectors in Uganda’s economy with various energy resources including; biomass, geothermal, biomass-based co-generation, small hydro wind, and bio-gas. Biomass dominates the sector contributing nearly 90% of the total primary energy consumed. This includes firewood and charcoal supplying about 78.6% and 5.6% respectively. (MEMD Energy Balance 2012).
The energy demand has been /is growing between 10-15% posing more stress on the biomass resource partly as a result of the growing population currently, which is estimated at about 35 million and with an annual growth rate of about 3.2%. It’s projected to reach 93.4 million in the next 30 years. The high demand for fuel wood has resulted in the depletion of forests (about 200,000 Ha lost per year), and land degradation. (Energy Report for Uganda, A 100% Renewable Energy future by 2050).
However the sector’s policy framework has a number of policies and strategies that include; Energy Policy 2002, Renewable Energy Policy 2007, Electricity Act, Bio-fuel Bill, Energy Efficiency bill, Draft connection policy, Rural Electrification Strategy and Plan and the Biomass strategy among others. These policies were put in place to achieve increased electricity generation capacity and transmission networks, increased access to modern energy services through rural electrification and renewable energy development as well as Promotion of efficient utilization of energy.
The energy sector is at the center stage for development as so government’s key focus areas of the sector include: increasing power generation capacity to drive economic development; expanding the electricity transmission grid network; increasing energy efficiency; promoting the use of alternative sources of energy; and strengthening the policy, legal and institutional framework as per NDPII. It is envisaged that the Renewable energy sub-sector through its policies, laws and programs must contribute to the Vision 2040 —“A trans-formed Ugandan society from a peasant to a modern and prosperous country within 30 years”. This involves changing from a predominantly low income to a competitive upper middle-income country within 30 years. It was further envisaged that the country would graduate to the middle-income segment by 2020 and reach a per capita of USD 9,500 by 2040. Therefore, the Renewable Energy sub-sector through its policies, laws and programs must contribute the Vision 2040.
Uganda holds great potential of renewable energy resources. Considering only conservative estimates of commercially viable biomass, geothermal, and hydro solar resources, the country has potential to get rid of fossil fuel energy by 2050. Despite the fact that the country has ample renewable energy potential, there are also potential barriers that have potential to hinder implementation and harnessing of the available resources. These range from environmental, technical, political, financial to commercial. Other barriers include weak institutional and legal frame works, limited data and information on resource base hindering development of bankable projects, inadequate financial support for renewable energy technologies and high costs of renewable energy technologies. Unless such barriers are broken down/ overcome, Uganda will more likely not be able to attain the set target by 2050.
It is also critical to recognize and appreciate that we have theoretical, economically & ecologically, technical and commercially viable renewable potential to harness the resources one at a time if we are to realize the 2050 target. The country either through government or private players will be required to deploy technologies that are within our means and harness the viable renewable potential currently than postponing for technologies not at hand.
Despite the above-mentioned hindrances, the sector still holds opportunities to capitalize on and realize a mileage in terms of the sector’s development. One of the opportunities being a country that is dominated by one of the largest young population, which is vibrant and energetic to make things happen. The government of Uganda should harness this population by allocating a specific fund for young people that are involved in renewable energy enterprises. This fund can be curved off the youth livelihood fund program or newly created specifically for renewable energy projects. This will automatically motivate more young people into venturing in renewable energy enterprises hence giving us a chance to achieve our 100% renewable energy future by 2050.
The writer is an Associate Director, Centre for Energy Governance