On February 2, 2024 the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development Ruth Nankabirwa launched the Electricity Access Scale up projects (EASP) in Mitooma District.
The project is said to be a 2.4 trillion co funded with the World Bank and seeks to increase energy access for households, enterprises and institutions through grid and off grid connections. Additionally, during the launch, the minister of energy added that that all Ugandans will have full access to electricity by 2030 with the result of EASP which is a good take for Ugandans
In addition to the above, the energy minister noted that according to electricity scale up project, over one million customers across the country will be connected to the grid at no cost and further added that under the same project that over 500 government health and education institutions will be receiving solar system and clean cooking systems.
I want to take this opportunity appreciate the government for the good work done by considering connecting all Ugandans to the grid most especially rural areas that are dominated by people mostly vulnerables who depend on biomass for domestic use which consists of fuel wood, charcoal, tree leaves, animal dung and agricultural residues burnt for residential use which is unclean and have a negative health, gender and environmental consequences. The fact that majority cook from indoors with no chimneys and any ventilation, this exposes them to biomass smoke leading to chronic obstructive pulmonary health disease which affects more women and children (Frederik van Gemert et al, 2013).
According to the World Bank, it is noted that most Ugandan households primarily depend on biomass despite of the government’s reduction on power tariffs, 85% still use firewood while 13% use charcoal for cooking which denotes a high level of deforestation. The total of biomass sums up to 98% of the population relying on biomass as the major source of energy in Uganda which is a key challenge towards environment protection.
This is because the current power tariffs still remain alarmingly high and unaffordable for most Ugandans. Only 1.4% of Ugandan households primarily depend on electricity for cooking which contributes to high dependence on biomass. The current domestic charge of 805.0 UGX per kWh remains costly to domestic consumers who wish to use power for cooking and this limits electricity consumption. Additionally, the high power tariffs have increased pressure on natural resources especially forests which increase gas emissions that cause climate change resulting in frequent prolonged periods of drought and erratic rainfalls which affects food security and decrease agricultural productivity making it difficult for people to meet their needs. This calls for reduction of power tariffs that can be affordable to every Ugandan.
So however much the ministry of energy connects people to the grid as the minister promised during the EASP launch, some people may still opt for biomass if the power tariffs are not reduced. Therefore, the EASP will be more beneficial to people most especially vulnerables if the government reduces on the power tariffs as it plans to connect areas to the grid and increase energy access to every household by 2030. This will offer people more opportunities to run their domestic activities and improve on their standards of living. This will also reduce vulnerability to changing precipitation patterns, increase shelf life, strengthen income and employment opportunities in rural areas.
Olive Atuhaire is a Research Associate