Distributive policy

Why a solar energy policy is needed

Popular perception of renewable energy in Uganda tends to focus on hydropower and sometimes solar power.

Renewables have a relatively short history in Uganda, especially in the public eye. However, renewable energy from hydropower has been at the heart of Uganda’s grid electricity generation since the 1950s.

Hydroelectricity, which exceeds 1,300 MW, accounts for more than 80% of the country’s stable energy sources, the role of which continues to be limited by the poor state of the national grid and the instability of the power supply.

Electricity transmission and distribution across the country is very limited. Grid electricity is only available to 24% of the population. This has provided a strong incentive for Ugandans to find something more stable that does not result in the constant drain of cash associated with high electricity tariffs and unstable power supply like biomass and firewood that have become the main source of energy for many rural communities. .

However, questions remain as to whether solar energy can be used to meet large-scale energy needs in Uganda, such as operating industries or vehicles, as well as providing energy access to all Ugandans by 2030.

Due to the lack of electricity, the majority of households have been forced to clear forests for charcoal and firewood to meet their energy needs.

The story is no different in urban areas. Statistics show that only about 24% of the population has access to electricity. More than 90 percent of the population still depends on biomass such as firewood and charcoal.

Every citizen must appreciate the social, environmental, economic and political impacts of reliance on biomass for their energy needs.

In sub-Saharan Africa, about 600 million people do not have access to electricity (which represents about 70% of the population).

It is worth recalling that in 2016, the Ugandan government signed the Power Africa Online Compact Agreement and Power Africa.

As part of the agreement, Uganda has pledged to promote and expand investment in off-grid solar opportunities for people, as opposed to reliance on fossil fuel-based electricity and grid.

It was observed that grid electrification could not improve access to clean energy for Ugandans, especially vulnerable groups such as children, women and youth, where over 80% of the population still depends on biomass energy.

As part of the implementation of the above agreement, the government and development partners have undertaken to work together to put in place a solar energy policy.

The policy was to harmonize and streamline off-grid solar energy services. They also pledged to put in place a rural electrification law, a solar consumer protection law, public awareness and many other relevant tools to develop clean renewable energy electrification under the Uganda’s obligations under the Sustainable Energy For All (SE4ALL) programme, the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Sustainable Development Goals and other national, regional and international commitments to promote access to clean and renewable electricity for all by 2030.

The agreement was an acknowledgment that grid electricity and the use of fossil fuels were the greatest obstacles to improving access to clean energy to raise people’s living standards, especially for the poor. vulnerable groups.

Despite the compact agreement of 2016, the government pledging, among other things, to put in place a solar energy policy, to raise public awareness of access to solar energy and to promote clean electrification based on renewable energy, to date, Uganda remains without solar energy. Politics. As a result, solar electrification and other renewable energy efforts in the country are still uncoordinated.

This explains why government efforts to expand electricity access and affordability, especially for the poor and vulnerable, continue to fail. Access to electricity in the country remains at less than 25%. Furthermore, more than 90% of the population cannot afford to use electricity for cooking. They remain stuck on biomass energy.

Moreover, due to the lack of public awareness and affordable electricity, the majority of citizens are unaware of how to use access to solar energy to improve their lives and incomes, as well as reduce deforestation. It’s a big problem.

Access to clean energy has the potential to improve people’s livelihoods, especially for women who spend most of their precious time in the bushes collecting firewood.

More so, improving access to solar power and other clean renewable energy sources will also enable the government to meet its commitments under the national development plan, the SE4ALL program, the Paris Agreement on climate change and other obligations.

Therefore, a solar energy policy should be put in place to guide the distribution and consumption of solar energy equipment. Such a policy will also guide solar energy legislation, investment incentives and solar energy taxation, among others.

The government should also operationalize the consumer protection policy to address the challenges of substandard solar products that are in the market.