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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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