In a significant step towards achieving national energy access, the government has secured a $638 million World Bank funding to finance an electricity project that will connect over 1.3 million households to the national power grid.
This ambitious undertaking, known as the Electricity Access Scale-up Project (EASP), represents a significant milestone in the country’s efforts to bring about widespread electrification and improve the quality of life of Ugandans.
The Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, Ruth Nankabirwa expressed optimism that by 2030, all Ugandans will have access to electricity as a result of EASP.
“The Country is targeting to achieve 100% access by 2030. Given the progress so far, the sector requires funds to implement the project to take us to this target. However, the ministry has secured funding from the World Bank under the Electricity Access Scale Up Project (EASP) that will be utilized partially for free connections across the country. This is expected to increase connections by over 1 million,” Nankabirwa told Parliament on Tuesday.
Government hopes that the project will address the challenge of electricity connections backlog, connecting 1.3 million households to the grid, 150,000 off grid connections, and accelerate the country’s ambitions to clean energy.
Uganda has made significant progress in expanding electricity access in recent years. However, the country still faces a number of challenges, including low electrification rates in rural areas, high connection costs, and inadequate infrastructure.
Government admits that the country has a backlog, with very many applications not connected, which cripples the country’s quest of increasing access to modern, affordable and reliable electricity.
Uganda’s quest to increase access to modern, affordable and reliable electricity is premised on its Energy Policy-2002, the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Action Plan (SE4ALL), which aim at achieving universal electricity access by the year 2030 and Uganda’s Vision 2040 which aims at having 80% of Uganda’s population connected to the National Electricity Grid by 2040.
IMPACT ON ECONOMIC GROWTH
The Government of Uganda recognizes that electricity is a crucial enabler for the country to attain middle-income status.
Access to electricity is a fundamental catalyst for development, enabling improved healthcare, education, and economic opportunities. Yet, a significant portion of Uganda’s population has remained in the dark, lacking access to this essential resource. The EASP underscores the recognition of electricity as a key driver of progress and poverty reduction.
The 2019 survey conducted by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) indicates that Uganda’s access to electricity is still low and identified the initial connection costs and lack of incentives to electricity distribution companies to make timely and cost-affordable connections as the significant impediments to access to electricity by Ugandans.
The Electricity Access Scale-up Project will be implemented over a period of five years, and will support the Government’s efforts to increase access to electricity for households, refugee and host communities, industrial parks, commercial enterprises and public institutions so as to spur socio-economic transformation, in line with Uganda’s Vision 2040 and other Government policies.
The project represents a crucial step towards achieving Uganda’s goal of universal energy access by 2030. By bringing electricity to millions of households, the project will not only transform lives but also contribute to Uganda’s social and economic development.
Access to electricity will enable businesses to flourish, creating employment opportunities and fostering local economic growth.
The EASP activities aim to build on earlier Government initiatives in the energy sector, to support the expansion and strengthening of the electricity distribution network, scale-up service connections within the network, and increase access to off-grid electricity in refugee settlements and their host communities (outside the existing electricity distribution network), and to scale up clean cooking services and technologies.
Other Government initiatives in the energy sector that aim to support the expansion and strengthen the electricity distribution network include; the Hybrid Electricity Customer Connection Credit Framework.
Launched by Nankabirwa in December 2022, the principal aim of the Framework is to address issues leading to low access to electricity, particularly the initial connection costs.
The Framework combines input from the Government, the electricity consumer, and the development partners, remarkably reducing the burden on those interested in being connected to electricity.
The Hybrid Electricity Customer Connection Credit Framework works in such a way that it combines a down payment of UGX. 200,000 by the electricity consumer, a subsidy of UGX 250,883 by the Government of Uganda sponsored by the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP) with their anchor partner, the Rockefeller Foundation, and a credit line of UGX 270,000 by the Uganda Development Bank (UDB) payable through a 15% deduction off a customer’s energy purchases over eight years.
This implies that Ugandans requiring a no-pole service can connect to electricity for as low as UGX 470,000, from UGX 720,883 upon payment of the internal wiring inspection fee. The scheme allows the electricity customer to either pay a lump sum of UGX 470,000 or make a down payment of UGX 200,000 and access the credit line of UGX 270,000 payable over 8 years to get connected to power.
The Hybrid Customer Connection Framework comes in as a way of solving the problem of a backlog of 200,000 electricity consumers not connected to electricity under the Electricity Connection Policy and the new no-pole service applications received by the electricity utility providers.
Meanwhile, Members of Parliament expressed frustration at Nankabirwa over continued delays in electricity connections despite the prerequisite infrastructure in their constituencies.
MPs queried why there was continued existence of lines without connections, with many of them calling for the ministry’s urgent intervention.
Kashari South County MP, Nathan Twesigye, inquired why the Ministry of Energy was dragging the issue of connections, yet the poles, lines and even transformers were already in place.
Hon. Jane Avur, the District Woman Representative for Pakwach, requested the ministry to prioritise transmission and distribution.
“The rural country side lacks transformers and most times sub counties, health centres and schools lack power. My prayer is that all sub counties get connected so that government programmes like the Parish Development Model are facilitated and implemented successfully,” she said.
Similarly, Hon. Felix Okot Ogong, the MP for Dokolo South County denounced the lag in connections, explaining that some lines have taken almost five years without connections and the wooden poles were even rotting away.
“From 2021, we have had nonfunctional lines and up to now there are no transformers. Added to this, the high cost of electricity is making businesses to shut down,” he said, adding, “You ran your factory for one week and you pay Shs20 million and a big factory almost Shs100 million. My people cannot afford.”
A section of members attributed the poor performance of learners in rural schools to the lack of electricity because the computers that were distributed by the education ministry to facilitate research and learning were not being used as there no electricity to power them.
Nankabirwa committed to examine the issues raised and pledged that districts that do not have electricity will be connected, saying that it is in the government policy, and implored Lawmakers to inform her Ministry on the existing electricity lines that have been dormant for over two years to ease planning and help to curb vandalism.
Meanwhile, the Minister presented to the House, a statement on the status of electricity/power sub-sector.
She said that power generation capacity has increased from 1,378.1 megawatts to 1778.1 megawatts after technical commissioning of four units at Karuma hydro power plant, an expansion she says is a result of synchronization of the 300 megawatts from Karuma Hydropower Project.
“Plans are under way to update feasibilities studies for Ayago – 840 megawatts, Oriang – 392 megawatts and Kiba – 400 megawatt, in order to escalate electricity generation to meet our demands,” she told incredulous MPs.
Additionally, she highlighted that electricity transmission, distribution, access and sub county connections have all soared, with only 433 sub counties yet to be connected..