Transport consumes 90% of the imported petroleum products, while 6% is consumed as kerosene in households, mainly for lighting.

By Guest Writer

OPINION: Uganda is a signatory to several energy commitments aimed at increasing energy access and addressing climate change.

Such commitments include the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which requires parties to develop policies, strategies, and plans that promote adaptation and mitigation; the Uganda Vision 2040; and the NDP III, which call for appropriate adaptation and mitigation strategies to ensure that Uganda is sufficiently cushioned from any adverse impact of climate change while at the same time promoting low-carbon intensive pathways.

In 2015, Uganda unveiled both the National Climate Change Policy (NCCP) and the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), which reference both adaptation and mitigation but state that adaptation is the primary priority and mitigation is a secondary priority.

Both the NCCP and NDC prioritize climate-sensitive energy services, while the NCCP prioritizes sustainable energy access and utilization for increased climate change resilience and increased investment in renewable energy and clean energy technologies to reduce GHG.

Similarly, the NDC prioritizes efficient biomass energy production and use, increased electricity access and energy efficiency, the expansion of off-grid solar systems, and overall climate proofing of the energy sector.

With the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), of which Uganda is part, especially SDG 7, member states are obligated to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.

The Government of Uganda recognizes that energy is catalytic to economic and social development and that there is a direct relationship between per capita consumption of electricity and GDP and overall prosperity. Recognizing the link between energy and development, the Uganda Vision 2040 and NDP III (2020–21–2024–25) recognize the critical role of electricity in the attainment of their key development priorities of economic growth, job creation, and inclusive development.

However, although Uganda is rich in energy resources, access to affordable, reliable electricity remains a major constraint to the country’s socio-economic transformation and the achievement of sustainable development.

The potential energy resources include renewables such as hydropower, biomass, solar, wind, and geothermal, but also fossil fuels such as peat, oil, and gas, and these resources are fairly distributed throughout the country.

The dominance of biomass energy in the country’s energy mix remains a socio-economic and environmental challenge hindering socio-economic transformation, a source of indoor air pollution with the associated health challenges, a driver to increased deforestation and forest degradation, and a source of GHG emissions.

The limited availability of alternative affordable clean energy sources for cooking means that biomass will remain Uganda’s most important source of cooking energy in the foreseeable future.

Currently, Uganda depends on imported oil and petroleum, with the annual imports of petroleum products increasing over the years, e.g., from 1.4 billion liters in 2014 to 2.1 billion in 2018.

Transport consumes 90% of the imported petroleum products, while 6% is consumed as kerosene in households, mainly for lighting.

Additionally, Uganda depends on hydropower for its electricity, which accounts for more than 80% of the country’s electricity supply, with the other sources being thermal (8%), co-generation (8%), and solar (4%).

The grid’s installed electricity generation capacity has been increasing over the years, from 183 MW in 1997 to 1,346.6 MW as of 2021, while the energy losses in the distribution segment have reduced from 34% in 2008 to 16.4% in 2019.

Construction of Uganda’s largest power plant (the Karuma hydropower plant) with 600 MW of installed capacity is ongoing and could be commissioned by 2023. Together with other small hydroelectricity plants that are under construction, this will increase the country’s grid electricity generation to approximately 2,000 MW by 2025.

Despite the country generating surplus power of 1346.6 MW, only 800 MW is consumed during peak hours, while 400 MW is consumed during off-peak hours.

This means that more than 500 MW is deemed power and has to be paid for by the government. Only 19% of the population has access to grid power, while 38% are connected to solar power, according to the UBOS 2020 report.

The Auditor General’s report for 2021 also indicated that the government at least pays UGX 87 billion on average for unused electricity annually.

The country’s sustainable energy transition is still being hindered by the government’s emphasis on large-scale hydroelectricity over other renewables, even though it is known that hydroelectricity is highly climate sensitive.

Some interest in decentralized renewables, including solar and bioenergy, exists, but they have not attracted the required state attention, and of late the government’s attention is rather shifting to tap into oil and gas developments for domestic power generation in the near future.

Although there is high energy potential in Uganda, the energy poverty challenge remains high, which has led to extreme vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.

With no viable and affordable alternative sources of energy in sight, dependence on biomass energy remains inevitable in the foreseeable future.

This makes managing climate risks to energy systems an urgent necessity to ensure supply system reliability and resilience if Uganda is to achieve its development targets.

Finally, to achieve SDG 7 and the goal of the NDPIII and to effectively contribute to the attainment of its objectives, the ministry has to work in line with its policy goals in the areas of sustainable energy development with a focus on increasing alternative renewable energy sources, particularly off-grid solar, to increase electricity access and mitigate climate change in Uganda.

The author is Patrick Edema, a concerned Ugandan.

Disclaimer: As UG Reports Media LTD, we welcome any opinion from anyone if it’s of constructive use to the development of Uganda. All the expressions and opinions in this write-up are not those of UG Reports Media LTD but of the author of the article.

Would you like to share your opinion with us? Please share it on this email: theugreports@gmail.com.

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