Home Feature Analysis: Why Uganda’s Unstoppable Renewable Energy Transition Should Be Embraced

Analysis: Why Uganda’s Unstoppable Renewable Energy Transition Should Be Embraced

Renewable Energy Transition is unstoppbale in Uganda

At Glance: The transition will create a million jobs, Clean energy for cooking, and unpolluted air to be realized, Kabongo wants Women, PWDs, and Youth to be prioritized during the transition, and Steady finances are required for effective developments.

While addressing the Country, President Yoweri Museveni in a televised address told Ugandans that the ultimate long-lasting solution to the escalating fuel prices was a transition to electric cars, which he said Uganda’s car maker Kiira Motors has already started manufacturing.

To Museveni, Shs20Bn required by Kiira Motors can revitalize the country, and enable the manufacturing of cars like buses which plough longer distances as oil prices sort themselves.

“Electric buses and motorcycles are the answer to fuel prices. The best way is to start moving away from petrol to electric cars like our Kiira buses,” said Museveni

“Engineers told me they need Shs20Bn to make more electric cars instead of saying we should spend money on these temporal problems, we should survive economizing then we migrate to the permanent solution,” he added

To Vian Musika, the Renewable Energy Manager at Ecological Christian Organization (ECO), the transition is possible and unstoppable but needs to include all other sectors instead of concentrating on the transport sector alone.

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“The escalating fuel prices have indeed shown us that we need to transit to renewable energy now, this should, however, be accommodative with all other sectors, for example, we have the majority of our population cooking on firewood all this should be catered for,” he said

Vian Musika (left) the renewable Energy Officer at ECO and Isaac Kabongo the ED ECO at the panel yesterday

The different forms of renewable energy, according to Musika are; Waste energy which includes charcoal briquets, biogas for alternative cooking, Geothermal for electric, healthy and industrial power generation, solar energy for power generation both off and mini-grid, and home standalone systems among others and Biomass can be used for cooking.

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“Biomass alone can meet 88% of energy demand in Ugandan because I believe everyone cooks at home. We can all begin to meet our daily energy needs sustainably and effectively,” he said

Sampling out Kampala Capital alone which hosts 5 million Ugandans daily during the day and at least 2 million during the night, a 2021 Report by World Air Quality a data-driven foundation that tackles air pollution placed Kampala, in the high position as the most polluted Cities.
The report pinned the Capital as one of those that had exceeded the world health organization guideline for Ambient Air Quality cut by 5/7.

Being a developing country, with the need to modify her transportation and manufacturing sector, on the other side bearing an irony of being the world’s food basket, exposed her land use for agriculture is the leading Green House Gas (GHG) emissions in Uganda.

According to Uganda’s first Biennial Update Report to the UN Framework Convention on climate change, this not only risk her natural resources but also her future
As the world becomes a warmer place, there is need to reduce on warming rate and this can be done through more than 1000 ways of exploring the many opportunities aligned within the renewable sector.

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Isaac Kabongo, the Executive Director of ECO believes that a renewable energy transition will not only solve the issue of Climate Change Monster but also preset opportunities which are more fertile than the available ones,

“Let’s take an example of jobs, a charcoal stove costs between Shs10,000 and Shs20,000 but go to the shop of people selling solar products now, you find that the opportunities are high,” he said

He said that the transition itself will create numerous new opportunities but has to be well organized so that it does not leave out a group of people like PWDs, Youth, and women.

An electric Bus that consumes Solar energy instead of fuel, made by Kiira Motors

“We want to see Uganda as a leader in this sector and demonstrate that it can be achieved. As Uganda, we shall benefit a lot because the sector will attract investments, creation of jobs, reduction of poverty levels, accelerate industrialization and minimize the negative impacts of Climate Change,” he said adding,

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“We need to be inclusive enough by bringing everyone on board, we want a platform that brings everybody together including CSOs, Academia, Media, government agencies, religious and traditional leaders, and environmental experts among others. We should create categories of people and ensure the transition does not affect anyone thus indigenous communities should be the first beneficiaries,”

This, he said can be done if the decentralized transition is considered and prioritized.

“The timing is good, we just need to move and work together, mobilize the entire population in the same cause,” he said

Like Musika and Kabongo, Michael Ahimbisibwe the Ag. The principal Energy Officer at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development believes that for a healthy Uganda with minimized inequalities, there is a need for embracing the renewable energy transition.

Michael Ahimbisibwe the Ag. Principal Energy Officer at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Developments speaking at the panel
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“We need to adapt to the renewable energy transition as fossil energies omit a lot of unhealthy gases  thus increasing the GHG with a need to reduce or contain to a sustainable level,” he said
He notes that while there is no other place called home the earth remains the tangible place that requires a lot of preservation for the next generation
“When we are talking about this energy transition there are many issues we need to consider, the behavior, technological advancement which however requires energy, economic shifts, social shifts and policies and thus the need to have everyone on board since everyone has a commitment. The issue of energy transition was already becoming an issue of high debate and that everyone should align themselves behind it,” he said

Transition Vs Oil Development

Renewable energy transition has on several occasions met stiff opposition from the developers of fossil fuels like oil and gas companies.

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oil devts in Nigeria

Following the adoption of the 2015 Paris Agreement, for example, both public and private institutions poured at least $132 billion in fossil fuels development between 2016 and 2021, according to the March 2022 Report by the Just Transition for Africa (JTFA).

This funding was underwriting into 964 gas, oil, and coal projects in West, East, Central, and Southern Africa, where the vast majority of this finance came from financial institutions based outside Africa, according to the report.

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“Of the top 15 financial institutions behind this sum, 10 are commercial banks and five are public finance institutions, the majority of the largest fossil fuel financiers are from North America and Europe, in particular from the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. JPMorgan Chase, Standard Chartered, and Barclays are all at the top, the largest single financier of fossil fuel projects and companies in Africa in this period is the China Development Bank,” the report read in part

“Those based in North America, Europe, and Australia together provided $73 billion in financial support, 55% of the total. Asia-based financial institutions, mostly from China and Japan, provided $42 billion of the total amount, which equals 32%. In contrast, Africa-based financial institutions provided just $15 billion, or 11% of the finance,” it added.

We asked Ahimbisibwe, whether the said transition won’t render useless the over $15 Billion Oil and Gas Projects going on in Western Uganda and he responded that,

“Renewable energy developments and oil and gas developments compliments each other because the products of oil and gas will be used by the renewable energy transition so we shall develop each other,” he said

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According to Ahimbisibwe, the government is currently reviewing the 2004 Energy policy, to capture the issue of Renewable Energy Transition.

“We want to capture solutions and factor on how best can we transit to renewable energy since it’s unstoppable at a moment, the growing prices of fuel is an indicator that we need to transit to electric cars, farmers are already using solar-powered irrigation systems among others,” he said

Kabongo said that they will through partnerships, facilitate policy dialogues necessary to develop long-term transitions to 100%.

“The purpose is to create one platform for all stakeholders also targeting the most vulnerable which are the women and the youth. The transition seeks not to create more challenges for the vulnerable groups including not affecting the human rights and aspects around gender-based violence,” he said adding,

Stakeholders pose for a group photo
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“We need free prior consent, social licensing where locals agree to give their land development without challenges and thus directly affecting the locals. The transition is people-centered on everyone getting a fair share of their investments, while climate change and its negative impact have been the talk around the globe there were more than 1000 opportunities in that areas and other countries were able to employ not only the youth but also the women and men in the sector, therefore, there is need to prepare,”

he said that because of  affordability, many Ugandans have been forced to adapt to the not-so-eco-friendly sources of energy  “however renewable energy  comes with transformation through value addition on SMEs that have a potential to grow in the future, and thus the transition is a pro-poor, people-centered and just with affecting the aspirations and needs of any community,”

With high decentralization involved, the distribution of the investments, he said should be fair enough for all the communities to be able to access the many options, especially those available in their areas, and help societies become more resilient in accordance with the NDCS in the Paris agreement.

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Musika notes that with effective policy management, a favorable environment, and proper planning the only big challenge to solve will only be financed and be deliberate on which opportunities to tap including working with different stakeholders and the leverage depends on the strength to be able to attract different sources of finances that will drive the agenda.

“We know that this transition to happen, Uganda will benefit a lot including investments, poverty reduction, accelerate industrialization and above all contributes to climate mitigation,” he said

Adding that if solar is borrowed especially by the smallholder farmers will be able to add value to their products like coffee, maize, and potato thus reducing wastage and increasing sustainably also at a global level Uganda is supported to transit and bring in investments and this will only be possible with no one left behind.

Minister “We need to create as much awareness as possible, work out on the strategic resources, capacity building, and technology development which are some of the options to help drive into the next phase of transition,” he said

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