By Guest Writer
OPINION: The Uganda Bureau of Statistics 2021 report indicates that 94 percent of Ugandan households primarily depend on biomass, with 73 percent using firewood, 21 percent using charcoal for cooking, and 0.6 percent using kerosene.
This has contributed to the massive destruction of forests in the country. For instance, the statistics from the Ministry of Water and Environment indicate that the country loses 120,000ha of forest cover every year and that 60% of the trees are cut down for charcoal and firewood for cooking.
The government of Uganda, through the Electricity Regulatory Authority, recently launched an initiative aimed at converting 50,000 households and 500 institutions from using biomass as the primary source of energy for cooking or heating to electricity.
This was a good idea because it looked at making the communities have access to electricity. It is through electricity accessibility that communities will be able to shift from the use of firewood for fuel to the use of electricity for cooking.
Moreso, the government needs to make use of the available electricity in the country accessible by lowering the high power tariffs for institutions and households to reduce firewood and charcoal usage rates in cooking and heating. The low power tariffs will therefore enable low-income earners and small business communities to start paying their monthly bills without difficulty.
In addition, the country needs to put in place plans for evacuating the redundant power from all the power stations, such as Aswan Dam and others. This will help in the extension of electricity to all communities in the country, even those where accessing power has been a dream.
It is well noted that the country has adequate electricity, but the only challenge is that it finishes constructing dams without clear plans for evacuating power from the dams to communities for use, hence making the country rank 7th in the top 20 access-deficit countries with 26 million people without access to electricity, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
For the above to be solved, the ministry of energy and the government need to always carry out comprehensive plans for distributing power to communities after the construction of dams so that power can be put to good use rather than being wasted.
The government’s initiative of transforming households and institutions from using biomass (firewood and charcoal) to electricity will also be achieved as people will get connected to the national electricity grid, the electricity costs will suddenly drop, and people will be able to pay the monthly electricity bills that have been a problem.
Lastly, the government needs to invest more in solar energy to supplement the electricity that is found to be on and off, especially during the rainy season. Connecting people to solar energy will therefore be of great advantage because the country has plentiful sunshine that will make it cheap and sustainable compared to electricity that usually goes off.
The author is Hildah Nsimiire, a research fellow at the Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GLISS).
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