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Uganda's estimated oil wealth has increased from 3.5 billion to 6.5 billion barrels,following new discoveries. || 80% of the land in Uganda is tilled by Women but they own less than 10% of it. || The Albertine grabben, where most of Uganda's oil is found, is also one of the most ecologically diverse regions in Africa.

 26/09/2013: As government commissioned the construction of the 600megawatt Karuma Hydro plant last month, people affected by the project are still complaining of lack of compensation.

Some 168 residents of Awoo village in Diima parish Mutunda Sub County, Kiryandongo district complain that they have never been compensated despite losing their land and valuable property to the project.
Auma Bilentina, the Awoo LC1 Chairperson and member of the affected group, says although the other affected people were compensated in December last year (2012); the remaining group has never received even a single coin.
Auma lost about an acre of land. She says according to the evaluation results, she is entitled to 1.6million shillings. The village chairperson says  although       they were promised pay in May, four months later no money has been received.
She says what worries them most is the construction work going on after commissioned by President Yoweri Museveni on 12th August 2013, yet their money is not yet paid.

"We accept development but it has brought us poverty, people cannot afford to shift, we have tried to go through the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) but he has given us a deaf ear, we wrote to the president when he came here for commissioning but they stopped us from meeting him," she said.

Last week the energy ministry released a draft map showing the area earmarked for the construction of an oil refinery in Buseruka Sub-county, Hoima district. As Uganda plans to build an oil refinery, we thank our government for taking the initiative and deciding well on what is good for our oil industry and our country at large.

For stance, since commercial quantities of oil were discovered in Uganda six years ago, President Museveni has insisted that the country should add value to oil production by building a refinery. The idea was to make Uganda self-sufficient in petrol, diesel and kerosene-eliminating a hefty import bill of around US$ 500 million per year-and also to export petroleum products to other countries in the region. International oil companies were less keen on the plan, preferring to export crude oil quickly and profitably.

According to the oil refinery map that was released, 13 villages in Hoima district will be affected. And that at least 8,000 people are to be evicted after being compensated.

Also according to Bashir Hangi, the refinery project communications officer, the refinery map released will help them get people's complaints if any like the spelling errors and under or over valuation of property on their land.

However, though the refinery which is expected to begin late this year will enable value addition to the crude oil, boost employment to the locals and give the locals a chance to provide services, still there are gaps to be filled especially for the refinery process to commence and became successful.

First, there is still little access to information regarding the positive and negative impacts of the refinery and pipelines planed to be constructed from different oil wells by all stakeholders for the purposes of effective public participation.

Secondly, it is unconstitutional for the developers of the refinery to tell the local communities not to plant perennial crops in the proposed refinery land before payment of compensation to the affected people. This is affecting the capacity of household heads to sustain their families.

Further, the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) which was undertaken and aimed at establishing land ownership, properties, loss of economic activities and livelihoods through compensation or resettlement from the refinery land, did not guarantee justice because of the Minister's failure to put in place formal regulations for the assessment and payment of compensation as required by section 20 of the Land Acquisition Act Cap 226. Instead, the RAP presented biased conclusions of consultants and government which impact on the communities negatively.

In addition, neither do the oil bills 2012 provide for a land owner an option to lease where he or she fails to agree with options of compensation or resettlement nor does it provide for compensation to include value added by the discovery of oil on the land. Leasing land will enable the land owners to continue getting rent throughout the oil production period and recover the land after oil exhaustion.

Therefore we believe that Resettlement Action Plans (RAP) should strictly be conducted in line with the Assessment and Payment of Compensation Regulations to protect the rights and interests of the affected people. This will avoid over reliance on the government valuer and districts land boards which are never independent to make reliable decisions for the affected people.

Also, In line with Article 26 of the Constitution, the communities in the proposed refinery area should not be stopped from using their land until full compensation is paid to them. And the new oil laws should make it clear that a developer/government can only acquire a right over the owner's land after paying full and agreed compensation to the owner.

Last but not least, the new oil laws should provide an option to land owners to lease their land to oil project developers in addition to resettlement and compensation. And also ensure that the compensation value includes that of discovered oil or the value of the project to be undertaken by the developer.

DORIS ATWIJUKIRE

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On 24th/June/2013, Kyambogo University KUEMA Students committee presented a petition to the director of NEMA Uganda on issue of safeguarding the environment from the dangers of oil activities in Uganda.

This was an initiative that was supported by AFIEGO, a public policy research and advocacy NGO whose main objective is to promote good governance in the management and utilization of energy resources for the common good and national development without compromising the environment.
Read full petition below:-

Despite the immense opportunities associated with solar energy, its adaptation in Uganda continues to be slow. Even as the Ministry of Energy, financed by the World Bank, prepares to roll out phase II of the rural electrification programme, it is becoming increasingly clear that hydro power is not a viable option and government needs to look into other sources of energy. One such source is solar.

Unexploited resource

According to the renewable energy policy 2007, the estimated electrical potential of solar is 200MW. Rural Electrification Agency (REA) estimates that so far there are over 600 solar connections in the country. Uganda has huge unexploited solar energy resources. Like most African countries, Uganda receives 325 days per year of bright sunlight. This gives solar power the potential to bring energy to virtually any location in Uganda without need for expensive large scale grid infrastructure.

Countries like Kenya have adopted a comprehensive solar system and their approach is a success story from which Uganda can learn. Kenya's major solar projects supply the national grid with 4mw. Kenya also has a number of off grid solar systems that have helped supply power to rural and peri urban areas- for example the 50mw power solar plant in Garissa-Northern Kenya and the L.Turkana 250MW solar project in Turkana district.

Solar energy would be particularly important for people on islands like Kalangala and in mountainous areas like kabaale, where it is difficult and too costly to extend the national grid because of the hard terrain. With the reality of climate change, solar energy is a way to provide clean energy without negatively impacting the environment and getting affected by the climate change.

Hydro energy problems

Government's failure to listen to the United Nation Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (UNPCC)'s advice to factor the effects of climate change in all our development projects has continued to affect the capacity of our dams. Indeed, the prolonged droughts and degradation of the environment, especially around L. Victoria, are increasingly making our dams "ghosts". This is the reason why Owen Falls dam is currently producing 74mw instead of planned 180mw, Kiira dam is producing just 50mw instead of the planned 200mw while information about the actual production of Bujagali has never been independently verified.

The failure to produce the expected amount of hydro energy explains why Ugandans are paying high tariffs andstill in darkness despite government promises that upon the commissioning of Bujagali, tariffs would reduce and darkness would be no more, at leastfor two years. Unfortunately, even before Bujagali clocks five months, load shedding is greatly increasing and power tariffs are higher than before. Government has to recoup the costs of building the dams even when they are not working to optimum capacity, and the consumers ultimately shoulder the burden.

High power tariffs

Uganda's power tariffs continue to increase at a disconcerting rate, especially considering that over half of the population lives below the poverty line. Uganda has the highest power tariffs in East Africa. Ugandans continue to bear the burden of the ever increasing power costs. Last year the electricity tariffs for large-scale consumers rose by 69% to shs.312.8 from Shs.184.8 per unit. Tariffs for small scale consumers increased by 36% to shs.458.6 from shs.358.6.The ever increasing electricity tariffs remain the biggest challenge in Uganda's electricity sector year after year.

Loadshedding

More to this is the problem of load shedding due to the demand for electricity being more than the supply because of the ever increasing number of people that are connected to the national grid every day. Uganda also experiences high production costs due to the concentration of dams on River Nile in Jinja. The major dams of bujagali, kiira and Nalubaale are all built on R. Nile and this makes it expensive to transmit electricity to the rest of Uganda. Also, a lot of energy is lost as power is transmitted over long distances.

Solar too expensive

State minister for Energy Eng.Simon Du'jang, has blamed the delay in adoption of solar energy on the high set up costs required when investing in viable solar systems. But like Dickens Kamugisha, Executive Director of the Africa Institute for Energy Governance, points out, setting up a solar system is a onetime investment. With solar energy, one need not worry about paying monthly bills to electricity generation and distribution companies. Also, there is no need to employ a lot of personnel to maintain solar energy or carry out meter readings like is the case with hydro energy. In the long term, solar energy is evidently the more affordable option.

Therefore there's a need to empower individuals and communities as producers and controllers of solar energy, other than having the government being the main key player. This would, in turn decentralize power distribution. Thus far, government should concentrate on subsidising the people who install solar to make it easier for them to access solar energy. Fruitful partnerships with potential investors should be taken into account by government for the development of solar projects implementation.

Solar energy is one of the most promising renewable and environmentally friendly energy sources. Government needs to diversify the energy sector through increased investment into other renewable energy sources, chief of which should be solar energy. Only then shall we have hope of realizing the renewable energy policy 2007goal of increasing use of modern renewable energy from 4% to 61% by the year 2017.

Recently the media reported that government had signed a power purchase agreement with a major American infrastructure firm AAE systems that will take on a $1.2 billion, 150Mw, geothermal power plant in Kasese district .It is commendable that government is taking such a huge stride in trying to meet the electricity needs of Ugandans.

Such developments are needed for the country to fully exploit the existing geothermal potential estimated at 450MW (Renewable Energy policy 2007). Aside from the proposed Katwe Geothermal Power Project, another remaining 300 MW could be developed at Buranga-kabale district, and Kibiro-Hoima district.

Ranked 10 on the list of the 24 global producers of geothermal technology, Kenya is the leading producer of geothermal energy in Africa. In 2010, geothermal energy accounted for almost 20% of Kenya's total electricity generation, all coming from the rich reservoirs of Olkaria I, II, III and IV. Currently Kenya generates over 200mw from geothermal technology. An additional 512MW is forecast to be added to the Kenyan Grid by 2020.

To achieve this, the Kenyan government has had to undertake several Institutional and Policy reforms geared towards promoting geothermal energy development. At Institutional level, Geothermal Development Company (GDC), a semi-autonomous state-owned company, was established and charged with financial risk mitigation, appraisal and production drilling in the early stages of geothermal exploration and development.

GDC also works with domestic and international financial institutions to underwrite and spread risk through Joint Ventures with investors. Deterrent capital investment risks associated with this technology have been assumed by the government's investment in exploration and feasibility studies as an assurance to potential investors.

A 20-year feed-in tariff policy benefits all the Independent Power Producers (IPPs) generating power not exceeding 70 MW this acts as a market incentive.

The above highlighted bold policy initiatives continue to attract both domestic and foreign investment into the country's geothermal resource sector in Kenya.

Uganda is on the brink of yet another load shedding roaster due to electricity demand outpacing supply, while the procurement standoff between the IGGs office and Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development continues to delay the development of Karuma Power Project, cloning the Kenyan success story in geothermal technology would be a welcome relief to Ugandan electricity consumers.

Unlike hydropower, the technology is not affected by drought and climatic changes, it is green and clean energy with almost no adverse effects on the environment with less carbon emissions compared to fossil fuel technology and has predictable low operational and management (O&M) costs compared to other forms of renewable technology.

By addressing the existing bottlenecks to the development of geothermal technology which include lack of a geothermal policy and Act, inadequate funding for the initial ground surface works and a non existing skilled manpower in the sector, will be a precursor to attracting more investment into the sector.

In a country where the electrification rate is only 12% for the whole country and 6 % for rural areas, the katwe geothermal project will enable substantial increase in the provision of additional reliable and clean power generation capacity to Ugandan households, businesses and industries. This in turn will also improve electricity coverage in Uganda, which is still one of the lowest in Africa.

Diana Taremwa

Africa Institute for Energy Governance

 
 

The government and Uganda's development partners like the World Bank have done well to promote and support rural electrification. So far, Uganda's electricity access in rural areas is six per cent, though the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) had targeted a 10 per cent access for rural Uganda by 2012.

According to REA, currently there are more than 6,000 solar connections and 426 grid extension projects that have been implemented countrywide to support social and economic projects for rural transformation.

Rural electrification is important because it increases electricity access to rural areas, thus improving the standard of living and the economic competitiveness of people in rural areas.

An estimated 90 per cent of Ugandans live in rural areas with less than three per cent electricity access. There is, therefore, need for rural electrification to cover the biggest percentage of Uganda's population.

However, it is uncertain whether the rural electrification programme is meeting its objectives of reducing inequalities in access to electricity and the associated opportunities for increased social welfare, education, health and income generation.

Access to electricity is vital for development for electricity serves as a catalyst, making the other pillars of development, education, modern healthcare, agriculture and other income-generating activities possible.

It has also been noted that for a society to move out of subsistence, conventional energy is a precondition. Therefore, access to electricity is not an end in itself but constitutes an important tool for development when we consider its linkages to agriculture, education and health.

In addition, the media recently reported that the West Nile Rural Electrification Company (WENRECo) wants to increase its power tariffs, a move that was opposed by the legislators from the region, citing irregular power supply. Under the Rural Energy Infrastructure, WENRECo signed a 20-year concession with the government to construct Nyagak hydropower dam and supply power to West Nile.

However, despite the fact that various dams have been commissioned across the country over the years, the increasing rate of power tariffs in Uganda is alarming. Despite heavy investments and reforms, Uganda's power tariffs and power losses still remain one of the highest in Africa. Increments in tariffs should ideally be matched with improved service.

If in 1990, the population of Uganda was less than 17 million and today, we are 34 million, what does the rural electrification access increase from two per cent to six per cent in 12 years mean? How many people are connected to electricity and can use it profitably compared to those without access to power or those with access but cannot benefit from it because of poverty or ignorance?

According to the REA, in Oyam, Pader, Abim and other districts, connection costs have been subsidised and people can pay in installments. But we need to take into consideration that after installation, there are high tariffs to pay!

Are we, therefore, getting value for money from our investments in the rural electrification projects? What is the best way to make electricity relevant to the needs of the poor? What is the impact of tariff increase on the efforts of the poor to use electricity to overcome poverty?

If power consumers in urban areas are disconnected due to failure to pay bills, how do we expect those in rural areas to benefit from electricity? Is there any case study that can help us demonstrate how the poor can access and profitably use the current expensive electricity?

It's at this critical time in the lifespan of the rural electrification programme (12 years) that these critical questions should be answered. More so, despite the good laws, the government has continued to implement good initiatives through closed processes with no input from the beneficiaries - the poor to whom such reforms were intended to benefit.

As a result, the rural electrification projects have continued to miss out on the much-needed popular support of the public, a key ingredient of success for any project aimed at providing the common good. In the end, the government and development partners have to continue providing unsustainable support such as subsidies to the private sector.

Remember, electricity is a right and Ugandans have a duty to demand accountability, accessibility and affordability. A well functioning governance mechanism such as effective implementation of laws, strong institutions, public participation, access to information and to justice would allow for better decision-making about the goals of rural electrification initiatives. It will also ensure that such goals are tailored to the needs of the rural poor who are the beneficiaries of such projects.

Doris Atwijukire

Africa Institute for Energy Governance.
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 Usually large scale projects like hydro power tend to grab headlines when it comes to renewable energy. However, there are many less celebrated small scale renewable energy projects. These have the potential to fuel businesses, reduce the carbon footprint, enhance environmental conservation, create employment and create income. In April, the New Vision newspaper ran a story about Rose Twine, a woman making millions through her energy saving stoves. The stoves optimally utilise special stones (other than charcoal) which in turn conserves the environment.

The stoves, apart from being environmental friendly, solve the problem of wood shortage which is rampant in rural areas. They reduce deforestation and wood consumption by 95% and cooking time by 75%. They protect the eco-system and reduce emission of harmful gases. The stoves can also be used to charge phones and light bulbs.

The renewable energy sector has a growing market that remains untapped despite continuous rise of unemployment rates among the youth. Supporting these projects will help meet multiple objectives as stipulated in Uganda's renewable energy policy 2007. The objectives include: Increasing access to clean energy, improving security of energy supply, contributing to inclusive social and economic development, protecting the environment and creation of employment in the emerging green economy- In essence, setting Uganda on a low carbon pathway.

The last few years have seen a growth in community based small scale renewable energy projects. These have mainly been triggered by increased awareness of climate change and environmental issues. Also, the social and economic benefits of such projects to individuals and the wider community are invaluable. However, the key problem remains in financing such projects.

These projects are often perceived as too risky for investors and too costly for the economy. This and other challenges such as in-house technical expertise, project coordination, and up-front funding at the planning stage, have hindered growth of these small scale renewable energy projects.

Small scale renewable projects respond to the urgent need to cut Carbon emissions, to boost the economy, diversify the energy supply, increase resilience and security of supply. It is important to note that renewable energy is an investment opportunity which can pay for itself over time. For businesses and citizens, much of this opportunity lies with small projects where the public can see the direct benefits of investment.

Employment created by small scale renewable projects has significant beneficial impact on local businesses and community as a whole because much of the labor required to implement these projects such as (contractors, installers, electrical engineers etc.) becomes part of the core workforce of the community.

We therefore urge government to create a range of incentives to encourage roll out of these projects like provide finance at beneficial rather than off-market interest rates, flexible grants or 'soft' loans, project preparation support to those that demonstrate potential and profitability and help those with promising project concepts develop their ideas into bankable proposals.

Diana Taremwa

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Promote adoption of solar energy for electric power generation

In Uganda, we heavily rely on hydro electric power and that's why our power distributors like Umeme are taking advantage of it to exploit the power consumers.

Last week, the media reported that the government was set to increase electricity tariffs again. This is as a result of pressure from our major distributor Umeme on government to increase the power tariffs. UMEME had proposed new tariff rate shs593.9 per KWh of power consumed instead of the current shs524.5 per KWh of power consumed, but ERA proposes shs576.9 for domestic consumers. This is what I would call consumer exploitation.

As Ugandans, we should adopt solar energy to power our houses, run our businesses, power schools, hospitals and clinics to reduce on being exploited by the hydro power distributors.

Despite the immense potential of solar energy radiation in Uganda which could be harnessed for electric power generation for the benefit of Ugandans, the rich, infinite, limitless energy resource is still untapped.

Given the scale of investments needed with grid connection, innovative approaches for planning and financing are critical. These approaches should be paid great attention to in order to promote mixed technologies. So, addressing tariff issues is always crucial for sustainability of the sector and for fund mobilization needed for refurbishment and expansion of energy infrastructure. Therefore, devising other means such as adoption of solar energy would be a good idea.

Although many people are feared by the huge expenses of installing the system, the long term benefits are enormous as solar will help you reduce your monthly expenditures on power which is good for our businesses.

Remember, a high electricity tariff has remained the biggest challenge in Uganda's electricity sector today year after year. However, one should know that with these ever increasing power tariffs, the power losses will also increase due to electricity theft since many Ugandans will not afford their high priced bills. And again, the high power rates will lead the economy in to crisis because they will inhabit production thus low government taxes and constrained production.

Recognizing the technical improvement of solar technologies and utility scale electricity generation and their suitability for installation in Uganda, our government should take steps to increase the promotion, adoption and adaption of solar electricity generating technologies for power supplies with in the country. This will ease many Ugandans from ever increasing power tariffs.

ERA last increased the tariffs in Jan 2012 after the scrapping of government subsidies for consumers. Then, tariffs for large scale consumers rose by 69% to shs312.8 from shs184.8 per unit. Those of small scale consumers rose by 36% to shs458.6 from shs358.6 .And its only one year since that Umeme is again pushing for increased tariffs. With continuous investment in the power infrastructure, end user tariffs are likely to keep increasing.

We therefore urge our government to foster close cooperation for the development of solar energy in general and the technologies for utility-scale electricity generation in particular and promote fruitful partnerships solar project's implementation.

Our government should continue supporting the international initiative for introducing advanced solar technologies in Uganda for bulk-scale electricity generation .Such initiatives accelerate technology transfer and support indigenous manufacturing of equipment.

Lastly but not least, our government and other specialized institutions should not only ensure the adoption of sustainable development for solar energy in their policies and strategies, but also make sure such policies and strategies are implemented for the sake of Ugandans.

Doris Atwijukire

Africa Institute for Energy Governance

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ERA and EDT should stop aiding UMEME to abuse the rights of electricity consumers

Several innocent electricity consumers have continued to suffer from illegal actions of UMEME because of the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) and Electricity Disputes Tribunal (EDT)'s failure to effectively perform their regulatory and enforcement of electricity laws. As a result of their failure or incompetence, UMEME and her agents are shamelessly abusing electricity laws and policies including the Electricity Act 1999, the Electricity Quality and Service Regulations and the Electricity Primary Grid Code that were put in place by the government to protect citizens' rights and enable them enjoy reliable and quality electricity services.

This reaction supplements Hon. A. Ruzindana's comment in the Daily Monitor of July 27th entitled: "Once again a victim of Umeme bills delivery and disconnection rackets" Ofcourse, Hon. Ruzindana should thank God for being a former IGG and MP that puts him above the ordinary Ugandan. It's the reason why you were disconnected at 11am and reconnected at 3pm on the same day. Otherwise, that's unthinkable to many Ugandans who have suffered for months and years at the hands of UMEME and cannot get any justice or must buy it like your village-mate-Rwembawo.

As Ugandans, we must wake up now and ask where the problem is. As you know, the Electricity Act 1999 and other laws clearly provide that where a person is aggrieved by the electricity service provider(s), he or she is restricted to first lodge a complaint with Umeme before going to ERA. Thereafter, if is not satisfied, then you go to ERA, and from ERA, one can appeal to the Electricity Disputes Tribunal (EDT). If is still dissatisfied, can appeal to the High Court for redress. As you can see, the law clearly provides for the protection of consumers' rights, duties and obligations, but the suffering continues. Why? This should once again help us to appreciate that a law per se without good implementation can never benefit citizens.

The story of Hon. Ruzindana reminds me of my friend Mr. Herbert Rwembawo also of Kitintale. Rwembawo's electricity was disconnected by UMEME in March this year on allegations of bypassing a pre-paid meter. For your information, the said meter was neither in his house nor his compound. Instead, the meter was installed by UMEME on a top of the nearest electricity pole on other people's land-10 meters away from Rwembawo's place. When he was disconnected on 12 March, he run to UMEME-Kitintale office. There, UMEME told him to pay a fine of over UGX290,000/ and a reconnection fee in order to get his power back. In effect, Umeme as a prosecutor and judge in its own case condemned Rwembawo to a fine of 290,000/. After this injustice by Umeme, Rwembawo went to ERA for better justice. In record time of one day, ERA went and visited Rwembawo's house where they verbally agreed that Rwembawo had no control over the meter that was located on other people's land. They promised to get back to him in April but up to now despite several visits to ERA offices, Rwembawo is still waiting.

After this second frustration from ERA's inaction, Rwembawo appealed to the EDT in April 2012 and on 19th July, EDT met Mr. Rwembawo and Umeme's lawyer called Susan to plan the case. Rwembawo, a senior officer at Mulago Hospital had been told that unlike our traditional courts which delay cases, the tribunal is quick in delivering justice and is in place to help the poor who may not have capacity to hire lawyers and other costs. However, to his surprise, his case's hearing was fixed for 7th Sept 2012. Remember, Rwembawo has been in darkness since March and now must wait another 2 and half months to know his fate. This prompted Mr. Rwembawo to beg the tribunal to order Umeme to restore his power as they wait to complete the case. But UMEME objects to Rwembawo's request arguing that power can only be restored upon payment of the fine by Rwembawo. In the end, the tribunal asked Rwembawo either to pay Umeme's fine as security and get power in 2 days or stay in darkness until the case is resolved. Remember, the law provides that when there is a complaint on the same issue, a consumer should not be disconnected. But that is irrelevant to Umeme and the tribunal once again, allowing Umeme to abuse the law.

Rwembawo's predicament is similar to that of John Tugumisirize of Kabaale where Umeme installed a meter that would continue recording and accumulating bills even when the main switch would be switched off. For years, John endured paying huge bills even when he was using power only for lighting (six energy servers' bulbs). After years of suffering with the bills, he discovered that the problem was the meter and immediately reported to UMEME. He continued moving to Umeme several times pleading with them to go and solve the meter problem. But it took Umeme one year and 19 days to test the meter and when they did, they came at night, disconnected his power and took away the meter secretly. The following day, he went there to inquire if it was them who hard switched him off and taken the meter. Umeme confirmed that the meter was faulty by an error of 33.4%. Despite the error, they told him to pay a fine of UGX400,000/ in bills. Now, more than a year, John is in darkness and he has been moving between Kabaale and ERA/EDT. Remember, ERA and EDT only exist in Kampala.

These two cases are examples of the suffering electricity consumers are going through every day at the hands of Umeme, ERA and EDT. All these problems are happening amidst several electricity laws that provide for the functions, rights, duties and obligations of electricity consumers, regulators and providers.

For instance, the Grid Code Regulations 2003 provide that Umeme or any other service provider must bill a customer every month with mandatory actual billings at least once every 3 months. Unfortunately, the law does not state a penalty if Umeme fails to comply. Further, the Electricity Quality of Service Regulations provides that Umeme must give accurate and approved meters to consumers. But again, this law does not state the penalty to Umeme if it faults and that's why Umeme is punishing Tugumisirize who has been suffering from their faulty meter. The regulations also provide that apart from cases of emergency, planned maintenance, illegal use, meter tampering, meter by-pass, denial of access to meter, before any disconnection, Umeme must

  • § Give the consumer a written notice of the problem, allow the consumer 5 business days to rectify the problem, allow another 5 business days of a disconnection notice showing Umeme's intentions to disconnect the consumer.
  • § The law also provides that even when the above notices have been given, a customer should not be disconnected where he/she has made a related complaint to ERA, EDT, court or any arbitration and the complaint remains unresolved.
  • § The law also provides that no one should be disconnected after 3pm of a weekday, or on a Friday, weekend, public holiday or on a day before a public holiday

It's unfortunate that to day Ugandans are in a situation where they cannot differentiate their rights from favors while government agencies connive with private companies against the citizens.

Dickens Kamugisha

Chief Executive Officer

Africa Institute for Energy Governance

 

Mr. Moustapha Ndiaye

World Bank, Country Manager,

Uganda Office

29th June 2012

Dear Sir,

Re: Petition regarding the World Bank's support (US$5.5m grant agreement signed on 22nd June 2012) and the poor implementation of Uganda's Rural Electrification programme.

1. My name is Dickens Kamugisha and I am the current Chief Executive Officer of a local NGO called Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) with offices in Kampala and Hoima town. AFIEGO is a registered public policy research and policy advocacy organization whose main objective is to promote good governance in Uganda's energy sector for national development to benefit the citizens especially the poor of the poorest and vulnerable communities that have remained at the margins of society for decades despite the reforms and the heavy investments that are being sunk into the country's energy sector. AFIEGO is a member of Uganda's leading coalitions on energy including Publish What You Pay Uganda, OilWatch Network Uganda, Civil Society Coalition on Oil, Publish What You Pay Uganda-Bunyoro Chapter and others with a combined membership of over 146 NGOs/CBOs across the country. These networks help us to operate in many parts of Uganda and this humble petition is based on my 7 years of research and advocacy experience with rural communities of Uganda.

2. For the last 7 years, among other things, I have keenly followed and engaged in a number of developments in the energy sub-sectors of electricity, renewable energy, oil, gas, minerals and others. In most of the reforms above, the World Bank has continued to lead other development partners in supporting our country to extend clean energy country wide for the benefit of the citizens including the poor and the down-trodden. On behalf of AFIEGO, the civil society and community partners and on my own behalf, I take this honor to say, thank you.

3. Before mentioning some of the reforms that your bank has supported and our government implemented over time, let me clearly state that the objective of this petition is not to question the intentions of the above grant or the principle of rural electrification programme but to request you to work with our government and civil society to ensure that such grants/support is used effectively to help re-programme the agenda of the RE programme, a good programme whose poor implementation has consistently failed it to deliver the promised benefits to the citizens. We are now in the 12 year of RE, but no clear and participatory research has been undertaken to evaluate its benefits and relevancy against the original objectives and the size of investments including the tradeoffs to other sectors such as clean water, health and education that would have received extra funding

Yes, the rural poor need electricity to day than tomorrow but what trade off should they make. If to access electricity by the poor means reinstating taxes on clean water, increasing tariffs from UGX380/ to UGX520/ or reducing the budget for the health services in the country, then, there is every reason to call for re-evaluation of that good initiative (Rural Electrification) that has become a monster/liability to other sectors. This is my concern. How do we ensure equitable benefits from RE?

4. This petition is also intended to bring to your attention, the failure by the government and development partners like you to involve civil society and local communities in the design and implementation of rural electrification initiatives. This is denying the initiative/projects the much needed popular support for success. People as beneficiaries remain ignorant and suspicious about the objectives of RE. The RE process is secretive and does not allow the civil society to access right information to sensitize and educate the public to support and benefit from the initiative. Those who try to educate the public, they are always blamed for sabotaging government programmes as may be seen in one of the attached press releases by Uganda Electricity Transmission C-ompany Limited (UETCL) against AFIEGO or by the Ugandan courts that take decades to conclude cases filed in defense of the common good.

5. Several electricity reforms have taken place in Uganda:

§ The Electricity Act 1999,
§ The establishment of Electricity Regulatory Authority under the Electricity Act,
§ The National Energy Policy 2002, the policy goal is to meet the energy needs of Ugandans for social and economic development.
§ The Renewable Energy Policy 2005,
§ The Rural Electrification Strategy and Plan 2001-2010. The Statutory Instrument No. 75 of 2001 and Electricity (Establishment and Management of the Rural Electrification Fund) instrument of 2001 which established three inter-related mechanisms for the management of Uganda's rural electrification programme. These mechanisms are: the Rural Electrification Fund (REF), the Rural Electrification Board (REB) and the Rural Electrification Agency (REA).
§ Other reforms included the establishment and introduction of institutions such as Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited (UEGCL), Uganda Electricity Transmission Company limited (UETCL), Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Limited (UEDCL), UMEME, ESKOM and other private actors.

6. All these are great reforms and the World Bank (WB) has played a very huge role both financial and technical support for the success of the above reforms. As Ugandans, we are grateful to our government and your support. But how has the government translated those reforms to benefit the citizens? Have we carried out value for money audit to see whether they make any economic and social relevancy? What is our criteria for measuring success and failure to inform any necessary adjustments required? To day, despite heavy investments in the above reforms, our tariffs and power losses still remain one of the highest in Africa. If in 1990, the population of Uganda was less than 17 million and today, we are over 34 million people, what does the rural electrification access increase from 2% to 5% in 10 years mean in actual terms? How many people have connected to power and can use it profitably to day than those without power or those with power but cannot benefit from it because of poverty or because its expensive or lack sensitization? We cannot accept our political leaders to make our Uganda become a perpetual debtor in form of loans to finance initiatives that are never in touch with reality. We must de-programme and re-programme our priorities.

Address the governance challenges regarding the rural electrification

11. While institutions such as Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) is established and regulated by the Electricity Act 1999, the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) that is in charge of rural electrification is not clearly grounded on any binding law in Uganda. The Rural Electrification Strategy and Plan 2001-2012 that guides the rural electrification is merely a plan and not a law that can be enforced. The powers and actions of REA are dictated by line ministers/politicians. In effect, REA lacks the independence to do her work effectively. I request you to encourage the government to empower the REA with legislation. This will help Ugandans to demand for accountability from REA and enforce their rights.

12. Further, despite the concerns above, we still appreciate and thank the government and her partners like you for some of the benefits of the rural electrification and other power reforms that have been implemented over time including extending power lines along the roads of many remote districts in Uganda. Indeed, without such reforms, most of these remote districts and villages would not have ever dreamt of seeing electricity poles along their dusty roads or seen wires over their houses. Other benefits include a legal framework that provide space for rural electrification and private players.

13. However, from the governance perspective, the concern of many Ugandans is that the government even with your support has continued to implement such laws and projects through investor perspective as opposed to public perspective approach. More so, despite the good laws on paper, the government has continued to implement the good initiatives through closed processes with no input from the said beneficiaries/the poor to whom such reforms were intended to benefit.

14. As a result of these and other problems, the rural electrification projects have continued to miss out on the much needed popular support of the public, a key ingredient of success for any project aimed at providing the common good. In the end, the government and development partners have to continue providing unsustainable support such as subsidies to the private sector.

15. The private sector on the other hand must constantly seek to insulate itself from what is a high-risk environment of investing its capital to providing electricity to the poor (the people who clearly understand the goals of the initiative or cannot pay for power or capital expenditure are higher than returns) through guarantees from the government. In Uganda, these guarantees have succeeded in encouraging private companies to remain inefficient because they feel secure as government must meet the costs in case of failure of the project as it happened with the Kiira dam on River Nile. Remember, Kiira dam was constructed to produce 200MW of electricity, to day, it produces 50mw but the investor is entitled to returns on the 200mw. Yes, we need subsidies but Uganda's electricity crisis is largely to such ghost reforms such as Kiira dam rather than lack of many dams or lack of World Bank subsidies. With the ongoing global financial problems, our government must spend wisely and spend where it brings higher social and economic returns. The current indiscipline and abuse of our budgets by the executive cannot allow the poor to benefit irrespective of how much the World Bank invests in Uganda. Help the civil society to mobilize the public to say no to corruption and abuse by the executive in the sector.

Address the governance challenges regarding the rural electrification

11. While institutions such as Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) is established and regulated by the Electricity Act 1999, the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) that is in charge of rural electrification is not clearly grounded on any binding law in Uganda. The Rural Electrification Strategy and Plan 2001-2012 that guides the rural electrification is merely a plan and not a law that can be enforced. The powers and actions of REA are dictated by line ministers/politicians. In effect, REA lacks the independence to do her work effectively. I request you to encourage the government to empower the REA with legislation. This will help Ugandans to demand for accountability from REA and enforce their rights.

12. Further, despite the concerns above, we still appreciate and thank the government and her partners like you for some of the benefits of the rural electrification and other power reforms that have been implemented over time including extending power lines along the roads of many remote districts in Uganda. Indeed, without such reforms, most of these remote districts and villages would not have ever dreamt of seeing electricity poles along their dusty roads or seen wires over their houses. Other benefits include a legal framework that provide space for rural electrification and private players.

13. However, from the governance perspective, the concern of many Ugandans is that the government even with your support has continued to implement such laws and projects through investor perspective as opposed to public perspective approach. More so, despite the good laws on paper, the government has continued to implement the good initiatives through closed processes with no input from the said beneficiaries/the poor to whom such reforms were intended to benefit.

14. As a result of these and other problems, the rural electrification projects have continued to miss out on the much needed popular support of the public, a key ingredient of success for any project aimed at providing the common good. In the end, the government and development partners have to continue providing unsustainable support such as subsidies to the private sector.

15. The private sector on the other hand must constantly seek to insulate itself from what is a high-risk environment of investing its capital to providing electricity to the poor (the people who clearly understand the goals of the initiative or cannot pay for power or capital expenditure are higher than returns) through guarantees from the government. In Uganda, these guarantees have succeeded in encouraging private companies to remain inefficient because they feel secure as government must meet the costs in case of failure of the project as it happened with the Kiira dam on River Nile. Remember, Kiira dam was constructed to produce 200MW of electricity, to day, it produces 50mw but the investor is entitled to returns on the 200mw. Yes, we need subsidies but Uganda's electricity crisis is largely to such ghost reforms such as Kiira dam rather than lack of many dams or lack of World Bank subsidies. With the ongoing global financial problems, our government must spend wisely and spend where it brings higher social and economic returns. The current indiscipline and abuse of our budgets by the executive cannot allow the poor to benefit irrespective of how much the World Bank invests in Uganda. Help the civil society to mobilize the public to say no to corruption and abuse by the executive in the sector.

16. Remember, electricity is currently not treated by the government as a human right and as such, the citizens have no direct right to demand for accountability, access and affordability. Civil society, and other actors for their part, has been hampered by highly restricted access to decision-making imposed on it by the government and lack of technical and financial support from institutions such as the WB to help them empower the citizens/beneficiaries about the goals and objectives of the rural electrification. Lack of public participation and awareness is a big problem to any project intended for the common good especially if the focus is to benefit the poor.

17. I believe, a well functioning governance mechanism such as effective implementation of laws, strong institutions, public participation, access to information and access to justice would allow for better decision-making about the goals of rural electrification initiatives and ensure that such goals are tailored to the needs of the rural poor and the down-trodden who are at the centre of such projects. They would also allow for flexibility and feedback mechanisms to the implementers and therefore provide concrete evidence for adjustments where necessary.

18. Currently, even where the RE is working, its the rural rich who have sons and daughters in cities and urban centers who are capturing all the benefits of the above initiatives like it has been happening in towns. Government must appreciate that not all rural people are poor and I am not suggesting that the rural rich should not access power. But if by coincidence, the 5% access to electricity in rural areas is captured by the rich whose wealth did not come from electricity, this may mis-lead the implementers. In the end, any support such as subsidies provided in form of grants will never reach the intended beneficiaries. It's these oversights that are partly to blame for the failure of RE and other projects in Uganda to be effective.

Lets look at some of the reports by REA regarding their achievements

19. If we consider the recent reports by REA, its clear that a number of remote districts such as Sembabule, Kaberamaido, Kanungu, Oyam, Ntungamo, Kabale, Rukungiri, Kibaale and others have been electrified under Rural Electrification in the last five-ten years. But these are some of my questions to government, WB and others who provide the financial resources and leadership for rural electrification projects. What does increase in rural electrification access and affordability mean in as far as the poor are concerned? Does it mean the number of villages/districts connected to the grid or the number of households connected and able to use and pay for power? We need answers to these and other questions.

AFIEGO's study in Ntungamo and some of the findings

20. In 2006, the grid was extended along the roads in the remote villages of Kahunga, Nyamirama, Kafunjo, Nyakasa, Rusa, Kiyoora and others in Nyakyera Sub-county, Ruhaama Constituency-Ntungamo District, a stretch of 40km with over 700 households.

21. In 2010, AFIEGO carried out an investigative study to find out the extent to which the people in the above villages were benefiting from the said power. Remember, Nyakyera sub-county is in Ruhaama constituency of Hon. Jennet Kataha Museveni, the First Lady of Uganda and by the design of Uganda's politics, such a constituency is considered by many as a privileged area where people should not be very poor.

Below is what we found out.

  • § After 5 years of getting electricity under rural electrification, out of 700 households in the area, only 27 had managed to connect their houses to the power lines.
  • § Out of the 27 above, only 3 households were paying UGX15,000/ as their power consumption per month each.
  • § The remaining 24 consumers, on average, each was paying UGX6,000/ per month.
  • § Twenty four (24) of the households above did not have a flat iron or a fridge. On average, each homestead had 4 bulbs even where the houses were more than one.
  • § 80% of the households switched of all the lights between 9pm and 11pm every night.
  • § Another finding was that 90% of the above households were owned by people who had relatives living in towns especially Kampala. Its those relatives who had paid for the connection fees and had paid for the building of relatively good houses.
  • § No household was using her electricity for commercial services such as ironing, water boiling, hair cutting or reading at night. Some few had a TV and a radio.
  • § One family of Mr. Nyansio Mukiga in Nyamirama village that wanted to connect to electricity was asked by UMEME to pay UGX6m/ for 3 poles which it failed to pay and up to now does not have electricity.
  • § Only 3 schools (1 Primary Teachers College and 2 Primary Schools) out of 11 schools in the area were connected to electricity.
  • § When we inquired about any changes in income or health during the time before electricity and after connecting to electricity, all the households reported that there was no difference in income. They said that they were not using power to generate income. Some families told us that their children were at home because when the schools they were in connected to power, the school fees increased to cater for the costs and in the end, the families failed to raise the hiked school fees.
  • § 22. We conducted other 3 researches in the districts of Sembabule, Kanungu and Kibaale to see whether the situation in Ntungamo's Kiyoora was an isolated case or not but the findings were 97% similar for all the districts.
  • § 23. Further, the research in the four districts showed that REA spent over US$200,000 to extend the grid to cover each parish in any district. However, the monthly collections for each area averaged UGX400,000/.
  • §
  • § Need for independent research

24. Through this petition, i request you to undertake independent studies to verify and appreciate what is going on under the rural electrification programme. Otherwise, our government can allocate UGX1.3 trillion to the energy sector and reduce the health budget to UGX600b or reinstate 18% VAT on clean water in the budget of 2012/2013 and you the partners can support such a budget but that cannot guarantee that the citizens will enjoy such budgets and live a better life. It should be noted that huge resources without discipline and good planning is what has continued to fail Uganda's good intentions. Otherwise, why reduce the health budget, reinstate taxes on clean water or increase electricity tariffs from UGX380/ to UGX520/ and then on the other side deceive rural poor people that you are giving them electricity to improve their lives. That is a sign that Uganda's priorities have no space for the poor. Water and health services are more critical to the poor than expensive electricity at least for the next 20 years from now. I request you to ensure that your support is put where it can yield better returns for the citizens.

25. Specifically, through this petition, I request you to do the following

  • Conduct a value for money audit for all rural electrification projects so far implemented against other sectors such as health and water whose budgets are being re-allocated to the electricity sector.
  • Advise the government to put a law in place to govern the work and practice of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA). This law should be effectively implemented to guarantee the independence of REA and reduce the interference of the minister of energy/the politicians who more often than not direct REA to electrify villages for purposes of attracting voters to the ruling party.
  • Involve the civil society in RE programme and ensure that NGOs are empowered and facilitated to sensitize the communities to effectively use electricity profitably and demand for accountability.
  • Work with the government to ensure that the Electricity Disputes Tribunal (EDT) provided for under section 93 of our Electricity Act 1999 begins to function and establish branches at district levels to provide justice to the aggrieved poor who cannot come to Kampala because of costs.
  • World Bank's grants and loans should be used to electrify households and not roads in the villages. Success should be based on the number of households and not the number of villages/districts with grid.
  • REA should go beyond infrastructure development and ensure that private companies such as UMEME, BECS in Bundibugyo, PACMECS, FERDSULT and others charged with connecting consumers deliver on the objectives of rural electrification.
  • Undertake a study to determine the relationship between poverty, lack of access and affordable electricity and the ability of the poor to use electricity to over come poverty. There is suspicion that even if you put electricity in the villages of the poor including connecting their houses to power, such poor people have no capacity to translate that electricity into social and economic opportunities. So, how do poverty and lack of electricity affect each other? If poverty is the major reason for lack of access and affordable electricity by the poor, then, a transition time must be created to give the poor free electricity until that time when they overcome poverty and gain capacity to pay for that electricity. On the other hand, if lack of electricity access is the cause of poverty, there, we must empower the poor to connect and educate them on how to use it to over come poverty. In all cases, the primary objective should be on enabling households to access and afford electricity rather than minding about the number of villages connected to the grid as it has been happening.
  • Last but not least, use the United Nation's General Secretary and European Commission's Sustainable Energy for All initiative (SE4ALL) forum to lead a global campaign to declare electricity a human right. The campaign should be based on the promise that electricity is key to the enjoyment of other fundamental human rights such as life, health, education and the dignity of mankind.

26. Never before have I written such so long a letter. It would have been much shorter if our government has been listening to the citizens' cries and our advice. I pray that you find the content useful and please, advise me where you can. Where I have said anything that overstates or understates the facts, I take responsibility. This petition is written in the hope that it will be seen as part of our humble contribution in making Uganda a better place to live in especially for the poor and the down-trodden that cannot stand on their own without support I thank you and hope to hear from you soon.

Yours for the cause of justice, equity and effective development.

 

......................................

Dickens Kamugisha

Chief Executive Officer