Uganda to increase renewable energy access to 61 per cent

Solar Salesman in Kenya
Copyright: Flickr/ Mark Hankins, International Rivers

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  • Uganda aims to increase use of renewable energy sources such as solar plants
  • A district’s target of 100 per cent renewable energy use could benefit others
  • Increased access to energy could boost productivity, says a government minister

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[KAMPALA] Uganda has put in place a policy aimed at increasing the share of renewable energy from four per cent in 2007 to 61 per cent by 2017, a government minister has said.
Irene Muloni, the country’s minister for energy and mineral development, says this will decrease overdependence on wood for fuel that accelerates deforestation, land degradation and ill health from indoor pollution.
Uganda loses 6,000 hectares of forest a year due to over-dependence on firewood and charcoal, according to Muloni.

“Access to modern forms of energy transforms people. It changes the way they behave, improves their levels of productivity and liberates the marginalised in society.”

Irene Muloni, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, Uganda

Muloni announced the new energy policy during a symposium on universal energy access to Uganda in Kampala last month (22 July).
And a district in Uganda called Kasese plans to achieve a 100 per cent energy supply to its communities using diversified renewable energy sources such as biomass, solar, geothermal and mini hydroelectric technologies by the year 2020, says Godfrey Baluku Kime, the mayor of Kasese Municipal Council.
Kime adds that Kasese plans to use faecal matter to produce cheap energy as they pursue renewable energy strategy for the over one million residents.
“Access to modern forms of energy transforms people. It changes the way they behave, improves their levels of productivity and liberates the marginalised in society,” says Muloni. “So sustainable energy for all will result in improving service delivery.”
The Ugandan government’s energy initiative is supported in its endeavour by the United Nations Foundation in partnership with the World Wide Fund for Nature.
Kime tells SciDev.Net that the district will give free land to renewable energy investors.
According to the district’s poverty profile, Kasese has a total of 134,872 households 99 per cent of which depend on fuel wood, with the rest using energy efficient cooking stoves.
Charles Masumbuko, the executive director of Uganda-based Action For Development, says since 2012, the organisation has built 2,800 stoves for households and believes this will go higher in Kasese, its focus for Uganda’s 100 per cent renewable energy use. If it works well it will be replicated in all other districts in Uganda, he adds
The Uganda Renewable Energy Policy 2007 recognises that electricity access at the national level is still 15 per cent — very low — and emphasises promotion of decentralised, off-grid electricity supply from locally available renewable energy sources of small hydro-power stations, solar, wind and biomass resources.
Muloni says by 2020 the government hopes to achieve an electrification target of 22 percent, up from the the current 15 per cent level. 
Reuben Mbauta, CEO of Foundation for Urban and Rural Advancement in Uganda, says Kasese is also tapping solar energy for lighting, adding that they have so far installed 240 solar units, and Kasese residents who are  enthusiastic about solar lighting only get to pay 50,000 Ugandan shillings (almost $20) a month in twelve months installments.
Most of the residents get a loan from the village savings scheme to pay for the renewable energy, Mbauta notes.  
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.