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Power Predicament: Navigating Energy Challenges in Rural Uganda

What you need to know more about

  • Uganda’s new Energy Transition Plan, unveiled during the 28th UN Climate Change Conference, acknowledges the potential of off-grid solar solutions in remote communities but lacks specific strategies for their support and implementation in rural areas.
  • The government has introduced initiatives such as the Uganda Energy Credit Capitalisation Company and the Electricity Access Scale Up Project to promote off-grid solutions.

On Sunday, March 24, 2024, Yumbe, situated in the West Nile district, experienced scorching temperatures reaching 34 degrees Celsius, with no sign of rainfall. This temperature surge, a staggering 12 degrees above Uganda’s typical yearly average, could even climb higher, nearing the 40 degrees Celsius mark. While this intense heat has devastated local gardens, it’s a double-edged blessing as the abundant sunshine fuels off-grid solar energy production for the district.

Yumbe relies on WENRECO for its on-grid power supply, like many other private electricity providers in Uganda. WENRECO, seeking profitability, has requested amendments to its performance parameters to mitigate losses. However, Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Limited, responsible for last-mile connections in Yumbe, struggles financially to expand the grid network and attract new customers.

In the face of WENRECO’s frequent power outages, an expensive alternative is offered by Electromaxx Limited in Arua City—a thermal generator using heavy fuel oil. However, for Yumbe’s predominantly impoverished population, with tariffs set at 21 US cents/kWh, these on-grid solutions are financially burdensome and unreliable, driving them towards cheaper options.

Despite nearly 60% of Ugandans having access to electricity, rural areas suffer with less than 20% coverage due to poor infrastructure, erratic power supply, and high tariffs. Off-grid solar solutions, while more sustainable, are only accessible to around 14% of the population. This lack of access leads to unspent allocated funds for electricity bills in sectors like healthcare, as seen in Yumbe.

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Communities like Mijale village in Yumbe are transitioning away from unreliable grid electricity by adopting off-grid solar solutions. Similar initiatives power water pumping systems in places like Tokuro village. Yet, the burden of expensive and erratic electricity persists for Yumbe’s residents and mirrors challenges faced in other rural parts of Uganda.

The government has introduced initiatives such as the Uganda Energy Credit Capitalisation Company and the Electricity Access Scale Up Project to promote off-grid solutions. However, these efforts heavily rely on support from development partners, with the government yet to make substantial financial commitments to bolster off-grid solar energy.

Uganda’s new Energy Transition Plan, unveiled during the 28th UN Climate Change Conference, acknowledges the potential of off-grid solar solutions in remote communities but lacks specific strategies for their support and implementation in rural areas.

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