Energy Diversification Key to Greater Rural Electrification

The author: Doris Atwijukire

There was a sporadic and mysterious gunfire exchange in the South Sudan capital city of Juba on Thursday afternoon as a yet to be confirmed group of people heavily engaged police for several dozens of minutes before escaping into thin air.

The gun battle started near a commercial bank in Juba before graduating into a deadly chase game, approved with security forces chasing the gunmen in the busy city streets.

Such incidences are a common feature in Juba since many weapons remain in the hands of civilians and ex combatants.

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A security source who was not involved in the yesterday`s action but witnessed the event, website like this said he earlier thought it was a bank robbery but the characteristics of the events did not add up.

“I first thought it was a major bank robbery across almost all commercial banks in the vicinity but it was a foot chase on the streets and no vehicle, which is common in such gang style activity, was involved,” as source told ChimpReports.

Defence officials said police were hunting down dollar black market traders only for thugs to open fire of law enforcement officers.

“The people who fired bullets at cops intended to frustrate a security operation against acts of economic sabotage,” said a military official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Sources say Police had for long been planning to storm and dismantle the ring of black market dollar merchants.

The dollar black market trade is a thriving business thus undermining the value of the South Sudanese pound.

The South Sudanese economy is on the brink of total collapse due to the internal conflict and low oil production levels.

President Kiir recently said, “The oil prices are likely to remain low for some years to come, as the supply of oil in the world is high and demand is low. This leaves us with few options for addressing this economic hardship.”

He added: “We need to look to what we can do by ourselves,  I urge our people and private sector to double their efforts in tilling the land – starting from this agricultural season – and to earn our living from our land rather than depending on oil and importation of food from the neighbouring countries.

Our Ministry of Finance must also double its efforts in mobilizing non-oil revenues and use wisely such revenues for making our economy to function, particularly investment in agriculture and facilitating credit to our private sector firms interested in agriculture, as well as settling their debts.”
By Doris Atwijukire

The recent published report, cost ‘A Clean Energy Vision for East Africa: Planning for Sustainability, cheap Reducing Climate Risks and Increasing Energy Access (2015) by Dr Daniel Kammen, professor of energy at the University of California Berkeley, recommends less hydro for East Africa.

It recommends the countries to shift their priorities to include a much greater proportion of renewable energy sources like solar, geothermal and wind, and to take greater account of climate risks to large hydropower projects as well as alleviating energy poverty in rural communities.

This comes after numerous studies and papers published drawing the attention of the unmet demand for access to adequate, affordable and reliable electricity of poor urban and rural communities in Uganda.

A number of dams have been constructed for electricity while others are still underway. These include the 250mw Bujagali Hydropower dam, 200mw Kiira power dam and 180MW Nalubaale dam and the ongoing  Ayago dam 600mw, Isimba 183 MW, Karuma dam 600mw. Uganda mostly relies on hydropower with current generation capacity at 800mw.

As government takes on the construction of Karuma and Isimba dams worth $2.2 billion, the key question remain: whether electricity produced by these dams will be affordable to most Ugandans especially the rural dwellers (who form the majority population).

Most of Uganda’s large dams have failed to deliver intended benefits of affordable and reliable energy services to citizens, gravely conflicting with their primary advertised benefits of poverty alleviation and energy for the poor.

Instead Uganda’s power tariffs have more than doubled over the past years; load shedding is the order of the day and electricity accessibility rates are still low.

For example the 250MW Bujagali hydro-power project completed in 2012, cost skyrocketed from an initial estimate of US$530 million to US$ 902 million. To date, Ugandans are still paying back the costs incurred to build it in form of high tariffs.

Further, with climate change, corruption and unforeseeable forces of nature, big hydropower dams have continuously produced less power than initially expected.  Uganda in particular, Owen Falls currently produces 74MW instead of the planned 180MW.

Kiira dam produces 50MW instead of 200MW. And Information about the actual production of Bujagali is still unclear and has never been independently verified.

The falling of water levels    in Victoria Nile is due to hydrology and prolonged drought that come as a result of -an unpredictable climate which makes the future of dams even grimmer. Remember, hydro power dams require high water levels. But Government has failed to learn from its past experiences.

Also, transportation and distribution of Hydro-power over long distances to rural areas leads to losses that have to be recouped inform of high tariffs making this power unaffordable for the rural poor. While, leaving those that have been connected unable to use it for social economic benefit.

The clean, non-hydro energy potential of the East African region and Uganda specific is vast, and developing it can lead to strong economic, social and environmentally beneficial development.

Such a plan can meet even the rapidly growing energy needs of the our country, make more significant progress in increasing energy access, and do so in a way that achieves environmental sustainability.

According to the report Energy for a sustainable future: The UN Secretary General’s Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change, (AGECC); April 2010, the decisions we take today on how we produce, consume and distribute energy will profoundly influence our ability to eradicate poverty and respond effectively to climate change.

Addressing these challenges is beyond the reach of governments alone. It will take the active engagement of all sectors of society: the private sector; local communities and civil society; international organizations and the world of academia and research. Expanding access to affordable, clean energy is critical for realizing and enabling sustainable development across much of the globe.

Therefore, for Uganda to achieve the current Rural Electrification Strategic Plan target 2013-2022, which is to achieve electrification access of 22 percent.

And other universal energy access initiatives such as Sustainable Energy for All, Government and development partners need to look beyond mega dams to deliver cheaper and reliable power to Ugandans.

Doris Atwijukire

Africa Institute for Energy Governance



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