High electricity tariffs and power shortage are the several problems Uganda is facing today. The demand for electricity is higher than the supply. Although the electricity supply increased from 250MW to 300MW since December 2011 when Mutundwe thermal plant resumed its operations, the national demand remains 450 MW, leaving a deficit of 150MW.
There is energy poverty in Uganda most especially at household level. This is evidenced by the low consumption levels of renewable energy sources like solar, thermal, geothermal, wind and others. Energy poverty has threatened conservation, social-economic development of Uganda's economy.
When one talks of energy in Uganda, the immediate conception of many Ugandans is hydro electricity. However, this should be blamed on government that has not invested in other energy sources like biogas, solar, wind and others. The government focuses on hydro electricity as the most suitable solution to the energy crisis, having told and warned that the power will not be enough for the population.
Ugandans have the capacity to come out and utilize the abundant energy resources including Biogas energy. Every household has got wastes or manure that can be used to produce electricity. More so, there is a lot of garbage and waste around our city Kampala. That could ease the work for Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) of collecting and disposing the garbage, which has also wasted the tax payers' money.
The government and oil companies have made great successes in discovering commercial oil reserves standing at over 2.5 billion barrels, issued over five(5) exploration licenses, conducted over five(5) Production Sharing Agreements(PSAs), trained some Ugandans in oil, currently enacting new laws and many other positives.
Since 2006, over twenty (20) Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) have been carried out for a number of oil exploration and production projects in different local communities in the Albertine Graben and beyond by the oil companies licensed and authorized by the government to operate in Uganda. These range right from Petrofina to Energy Africa, Hardman Resources, to Heritage, to Tullow, Dominion, Neptune, Total, CNOOC and others. As investors, these companies have made us proud by discovering over 2.5 billion barrels of oil reserves with great potential to liberate our country and our people from poverty trap, provide the much needed revenues for education, roads, electricity, health and other opportunities.
We also appreciate the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA)'s commitment under its great leadership for ensuring that Environmental Impact Assessments have been conducted by the developers for all oil projects in Uganda.
However, the single biggest problem in the oil sector is secrecy, corruption, outdated laws, poor EIA processes, refusal to pay taxes by the oil companies, threats to biodiversity of the Graben and other issues.
Environmental Impact Assessment processes and EIA reports have been and continue to be produced in English amidst a situation where over 80% of the participants/community people do not comprehend the language, so, even where NEMA and the oil developers have attempted to involve the people, the language has remained an obstacle.
It has been also observed that the EIA processes and EIA reports have been and continue to be produced in English amidst a situation where over 80% of the participants/community people do not comprehend the language, so, even where NEMA and the developers have attempted to involve the people, the language has remained an obstacle.
Oil activities' related to Environmental Impact Assessments have been, since oil companies showed up on the scene in Uganda, done without accompanying public hearings despite the sensitivity of the natural resource that is oil and the fact that oil is recognized by the Constitution as a resource of international/transboundary importance.
On completion of the assessments, the ensuing reports which are always in English have not been translated into respective local languages which are understood by the relevant communities of the project areas and, this has continued to make the participation of the communities ineffective which in turn affects the implementation of the recommendations in the reports.
In addition, environmental, social and equity issues linked to the use of this resource is of fundamental importance for the people of Uganda and particularly the poor and vulnerable communities whose livelihoods entirely depends on the healthy ecosystem/environment in which we live in.
Therefore, We believe that it was because of the realization of the possible impacts of oil and the need to conserve the environment which compelled the Parliament and the government to put in place laws and regulations which require that the public should be facilitated to participate in EIA processes through Public Hearings and EIA reports translate in local languages to promote community ownership of the reports for easy implementation.
National Environmental Management Authority(NEMA) should also commit to translating all the existing EIA reports on oil projects into local languages relevant to specific community and ensure that any future EIAs are duly translated.
The writer works with
Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO)
The Electricity Industry in Uganda has for the last twelve (12) years under gone several structural reforms all aimed at addressing the problems associated with electricity supply and distribution network.
Contrary to the intentions of the Power Structural Adjustment program, Ugandans are currently facing the worst power crisis in its history. There is a 24 hour load shedding program which has seen several businesses close down leading to loss of revenue for the country hence increased inflation. This has been compounded by the loss of over 100MW from the power grid caused by government's failure to pay accumulated debts owed to Independent power producers (IPPs) like Aggreko.
Globeleq took over the Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Limited (UEDCL) in partnership with South Africa's state owned electricity firm Eskom. (Umeme is 56% owned by Globeleq and 44% by Eskom). Umeme will manage and operate the electricity distribution system in Uganda for 20 years based on the concession agreement signed in May 2004. The electricity distribution network was leased from the UEDCL, an entity of the government of Uganda. Umeme was and is to invest capital to improve the network infrastructure and establish new connections thus a promise for safe and reliable electricity and long term commitment (for 20 years). The privatization is not by the sale of assets, which remain owned by UEDCL, but by a 20 year concession, which makes Umeme responsible for investment, charges and management of the distribution system.
In the first 18 months Eskom and Globeleq invested only $5m in the system. In September 2006 they promised to invest a further $100m., using loans rather than the shareholders' equity capital of Eskom and Globeleq. It is not clear how much of the $100m in reality was the money from donors, rather than Eskom or Globeleq. Umeme also benefited from an $11 million loan from the World Bank affiliate International Development Agency to buy materials, which was turned over to Umeme. These materials were all supposed to be installed in the initial 18-months period, but were not.
These electricity companies and the regulatory body are wholly owned by the government of Uganda mandated to preserve and protect public interests.
The main consideration for the signing of the Concession Agreement was promised on an understanding that UMEME would invest US$65M in the distribution of electricity within the first five years of operation, acquire the relevant technology to upgrade the electricity distribution system, guaranteeing broader coverage of electricity usage, reduce electricity losses, create a modern billing system that would ensure that customers would be able to get accurate and regular bills, tariffs per unit of electricity consumed would be lowered considerably and load shedding would be abated.
However, in 2006 Umeme had introduced repeated price rises, was in dispute with Uganda over lease payments and tax break. In 2005 Umeme increased prices by 24%, and again in 2006 by a further 37%. An unsuccessful court case was brought on behalf of all Ugandans belonging to the Uganda Electricity Users Association (UEUA), claiming that the procedures used did not involve consumers and were not transparent as they are required to be under Ugandan law. And recently in January 2012 UMEME still increased the electricity tariffs by 40%. In Uganda, price increase is being used as a way of restoring the financial health of electricity companies. And this has a disproportionate impact on the poor, by making electricity even less affordable.
Umeme has also been demanding a tax break, claiming it should benefit from half of the tax allowances of the state holding company UEDCL, which means a windfall to Umeme of £3.5million.
Access to electricity is low in Uganda; therefore it is everyone's call to the government and all the key players in the power sector that the electricity pricing policies should be based on long-term commitment of public finance to expansion of the system to provide affordable electricity.
AFRICA INSTITUTE FOR ENERGY GOVERNANCE