Conservationists call for combined efforts towards investment in mini grids system, renewable energy

A solar panel installed at the escarpment of Lake of Albert in Kibiro Village, Kigorobya Sub-county in Hoima District.

Environmentalists are piling more pressure on governments calling for combined efforts towards prioritising promotion of renewable energy through mini grids system.

They say the development will tackle issues on climate change as well as economic development.

Uganda is richly endowed with abundant energy resources, which are fairly distributed throughout the country.

These include hydropower, biomass, solar, geothermal, peat and fossil fuels.

The energy resource potential of the country includes an estimated 2,000 MW of hydro power, 450 MW of geothermal, 1,650 MW of biomass cogeneration, 460 million tons of biomass standing stock with a sustainable annual yield of 50 million tonnes, an average of 5.1 kWh/m2 of solar energy, and about 250 million tonnes of peat of 800 MW.

The overall renewable energy power generation potential is estimated to be 5,300 MW.

World Wide Fund for nature Uganda Country Director, (WWF-UCO), Mr David Duli, said the forest cover in Uganda has drastically reduced partly attributing the loss to the unsustainable use of biomass and encroachment to these resources by the community in search of timber as a source of income.

“There is need for government to prioritise construction of mini grids in off-grid communities around the country and engaging private sector players to invest in the renewable energy solutions to accelerate the uptake and use of these technologies,” he said.

M Duli whose organisation is already implementing a Multi Actor Partnerships, (MAPs) project with an objective to Implement Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) with up to 100 per cent renewable energy says investment in renewable energy through mini grids system is a better way of enhancing economic development.

MAPs are expected to develop narratives on the advantages and possible implementation of 100% renewable energy scenarios.

With funding from Ørsted through WWF-Denmark, the project also aims at ensuring that local communities adopt clean cooking solutions to reduce their consumption of biomass.

Biomass is the predominant type of energy used in Uganda, accounting for 94% of the total energy consumption in the country.

Transition to a low carbon development pathway

Mr Duli said WWF is promoting clean energy access and the transition to a low carbon development pathway through rural electrification using solar mini-grids.

In partnership with the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD), WWF has installed seven solar mini-grid systems in Kasese and Rubirizi districts with a total generation capacity of 175kW.

These, he says can potentially supply more than 1,800 homes and 200 business centres.

The mini grids produce energy for lighting, commercial and other productive uses to business and mainly lighting and phone charging to households.

“This has created new opportunities for livelihood improvement through productive use of electricity, creation of new jobs especially for the youth and contribution to sustainable and inclusive economic growth in these rural communities”.

WWF in the European Union project has distributed up to 11,200 solar home systems to increase access to solar use by the off-grid communities.

A study by World Bank 2016 revealed that electricity is affordable if 30 units of electricity (kWh) a month costs no more than five per cent of household income.

Global emerging markets and developing economies currently hold 67 per cent of the world’s population, but only attract 16 per cent of global clean energy investment, according to the International Energy Agency.

Renewable infrastructure investment trusts have surged in popularity among investors lured by their steady income streams and green credentials.

Statistics

Uganda has 34 installed mini-grids that are currently serving approximately 20,000 households.

This is less than 1% of the 7.3 million households in the country.

In 2009, Uganda created feed-in tariffs for renewable energy and the Modern Energy Service Programme in 2011 to promote bio-fuels.

Currently, biomass supplies about 90% of the country’s energy needs.

Biomass utilisation together with the population growth have put much pressure on Uganda’s forests, which covered 26.4% of the country’s surface in 2018 and has been decreased by 18% since 2000.

With funding from the European Union, WWF is implementing the Scaling-Up Rural Electrification Using Innovative Solar PV Distribution Models Project.

The overall objective of the project is to improve rural livelihoods and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions through widespread access to clean and renewable sources of energy by 2025.

Annual Energy Week

The Annual Energy week started in 2005 as an energy efficiency week.

It has since grown to become a popular annual energy week.

This is an annual campaign that focuses on sustainable use of energy and energy access.

This year, 160 players in the clean energy sector participated in the event. The platform has over the years created awareness on sustainable energy use and conservation.

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