Uganda is seeking to accelerate its efforts to reach universal access to clean energy. Today only 57% of Uganda’s population has access to some sort of clean energy or electricity.
This three-part article brings to light some of Uganda’s
plans for the energy transition and explores the possibilities for energy
infrastructure based on the global developments in the energy sector. We shall explore the energy transition from oil and gas developments. The final
parts will look at transition minerals as we explore some of the barriers
that could prevent these developments and what the country needs to overcome to
fulfill its clean energy ambitions.
At the end of this month (November) Uganda through the
Ministry of Energy will launch Uganda’s energy transition strategy at the UN
Climate Change Conference (COP2) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The proposed launch of Uganda’s Energy Transition plan has
been described as a step in the right direction by some climate and environment
activists as the world grappleswith the urgent need to combat climate change and
transition to sustainable energy sources.
The energy transition strategy will
act as a blue-print for Uganda on how it will generate, distribute, and consume
the clean energy sources and possibly when to abandon the fossil fuels in the
country’s energy mix. Uganda, which is about to start
producing oil is among other countries under international watch by
anti-fossil fuel activists.
Uganda’s Energy Transition Plan.
With this strategy, Uganda has begun the journey to move away from fossil-fuel-backed production, or what is generally
referred to as decarbonizing. The strategy was developed by the Ministry of
Energy with the collaboration of the International Energy Agency (IEA).
talks about how to decarbonize and absorb more renewable energy sources in mining
and petroleum operations. It outlines how the country will achieve the objectives
of carbon neutrality by 2050 while ensuring universal access to
electricity by 2040.
National Energy Policy for Uganda 2023 replaces the previous energy policy,
which was adopted in 2002. It provides a detailed list of challenges and policy
priorities in most energy subsectors, including electricity, renewable energy,
energy efficiency, rural electrification, clean cooking, and nuclear power.
The current situation
According to Irene
Bateebe, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development,
Uganda currently boasts of a largely decarbonized hydropower sector. “Where 80%
of our power is hydro-based at about 1600 megawatts out of about 2000 installed
capacity by the end of this year," she said. Uganda also produces some
power from bagasse (sugarcane waste) contributing about 111 megawatts of power
from cogeneration. The solar utility plants across the country contribute about
100 megawatts to the grid.
Thermal power plants.
The thermal power plants
according to Bateebe are not running on a daily basis as they used to when the
country faced severe load shedding. “This is largely run as a security backup.
We only call on our thermal when there is a shortfall in the system,” said
Electricity accounts for only 2% of the total final
energy consumption, with biomass and fossil fuels accounting for 88% and 10%
What is in the Energy Transition Strategy? The strategy is based on Uganda’s ambitious
plan to develop industrialize and meet the energy security plan as per the new
energy launched this year.
Uganda plans to generate about 52000 megawatts of electricity. In real terms,
that means that Uganda today is able to aggregate about 28000 megawatts excluding
nuclear. “So we are able to draw
all our potential on the hydro side where we still have 4500 megawatts untapped,
we have some peat as geothermal about 1550 megawatts, we have some wind, solar
and biomass. But we are able to generate up to 28000 megawatts,” Bateebe revealed.
“So the shortfall between 52000 megawatts and 28000
megawatts shall be covered by nuclear at 24000 megawatts. I know one will say
we are ambitious with nuclear but that is the reality as we see to decarbonize,”
Some experts have however
urged Uganda against its plans for atomic energy or nuclear power plants. In
September, the German Ambassador to Uganda Matthias Schauer with
cheaper and abundance of cleaner hydropower and solar energy options, Uganda
doesn't need to invest in environmentally risk nuclear power plants.
Schauer, whose country
continues to support Uganda’s clean energy projects and policies, said nuclear
power generation is not only costly but environmentally sensitive.
the end of October 2023, about 30 countries including Uganda were considering,
planning, or starting nuclear power programmes. Others in west,
central and southern Africa: Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia,
Namibia, Rwanda, and Ethiopia.
The World Nuclear Association indicated that despite
the large number of these emerging countries, they are not expected to
contribute very much to the expansion of nuclear capacity in the foreseeable
future – the main growth will come in countries where the technology is already
“However, in the longer term, the trend to urbanization
in less-developed countries will greatly increase the demand for electricity,
and especially that supplied by base-load plants such as nuclear. The pattern
of energy demand in these countries will become more like that of Europe, North
America, and Japan.”
The debate about nuclear energy has been on since COP27
in Egypt as the search for energy diversification took a more frantic pace
amidst the global energy transition debate.
Uganda is among the countries that supported the IEA’s
Power and Secure Energy Transitions
report, which observed a growing
appetite for nuclear power.
The IEA supported the development of the Uganda 2023
Energy Policy Review which details the country’s energy options including
nuclear. “Non-fossil fuels, particularly nuclear and hydropower, make a
substantial contribution to the energy supply diversity of IEA countries as a
group” reads part of the review prefaced by Dr. Fatih Birol Executive Director
International Energy Agency.
The government has a scenario to develop a 1,000 MW
nuclear power plant by 2031 and another 1,000 MW plant by 2040 in anticipation
of rising demand.
It is working with the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA), considered to be in Phase 2 of the IAEA Milestone Approach, and
has signed non-binding agreements with companies in China and Russia to explore
In August 2023, Ugandan
President Yoweri Museveni announced that Russia and South Korea had been
selected to build two nuclear power plants with a combined capacity of 15 GWe
as part of Uganda Vision 2040
Potential nuclear reactor
sites in the Kyoga, Kagera, and Aswa regions. But Irene Bateebe in the past
hinted at Buyende.
The base case scenario
is for two 1000 MWe units by 2031 with an expected cost of $9 billion.
The challenges related to nuclear and generally grid
In October 2023, the
World Nuclear Association raised some issues related to the deployment of nuclear
with the existing grids. Those issues should concern Uganda too as it plans to deploy
Many nuclear power
plants are larger than the fossil fuel plants they supplement or replace, and
it does not make sense to have any generating unit more than one-tenth of the
capacity of the grid (maybe 15% if there is a high reserve capacity,” the World
Nuclear Association observed. The Association said
Kenya sought to evaluate its grid system before considering the generation
According to the association, another issue is that of licensing
generally do not have the expertise for this, and must initially rely on design
licensing by countries such as the UK, USA, France, Russia, and China while
they focus on building competence to license the actual operation of plants,”
A source at the Ministry
of Energy told URN that with lessons from Germany which is currently closing
down its nuclear plants for safety concerns, the government is looking at
deploying generation 3+ latest technologies which have a life span of 80 and
can be increased to 100 years of operation. “So we are looking at energy
security. And that offers you reliable power with capacity factors of 80%” the
source told URN.
Uganda, electricity accounts for only 2% of the total final energy consumption,
with biomass and fossil fuels accounting for 88% and 10% respectively. The
UETCL’s 2018 Grid Development Plan uses Vision 2040’s consumption goals as one
scenario but provides a base case under which the required capacity is expected
to reach 3 536 MW by 2040, or about 2.5 times the current capacity.
scenario does not include nuclear, but a generation mix that continues to be
dominated by hydropower (73%), followed by solar and wind (together 20%),
geothermal (3%), bagasse-fired co-generation (2%), and oil-fired thermal (2%)
(UETCL, 2018. The
inadequate transmission and distribution system continues to be a significant
constraint on the full use of the country’s generating capacity and has
resulted in high costs for the UETCL in take-or-pay contracts.
capacities of intermediate distribution networks are often insufficient to
fully transmit power from distributed power generation plants to demand centers. A
study by Bernard Wabukala and others last year noted that the availability of a
source of electricity does not translate into full access; electricity needs to
be available at the right time, at an affordable price, and with a reliable
installed capacity is 1269 MW against a peak load of 758 MW.
It observed that a comparison of that supply and demand imbalance translates into
a popular belief that Uganda has an excess supply of electricity and, could
lead to a loose conclusion that the country is “electricity secure." So
from the researchers, in terms of availability, the surplus exists because only
42% of the population has access to grid electricity.
then, most of the population connected to grid electricity use it to supplement
other energy resources. Second, the country continues to experience perennial power
, blamed on a multitude of factors, including system breakdowns due
to natural hazards, an aging electricity infrastructure], electricity thefts,
and vandalism of transmission and distribution infrastructure."
month another study titled “Effects of technical and security factors on grid
electricity reliability: evidence from Uganda National Electricity Grid Network”
by researchers from Makerere University Business School and the Norwegian
University of Life Science found that that technical and security factors
influenced the transmission and distribution grid electricity reliability in
one way or another.
factors relate to the quality and age of the grid. If the components that make
up the power grid are of low quality, this will compromise grid reliability to
a great extent because low-quality grid equipment will easily break/fail." It
means that from now up to 2040,
infrastructure landscape will undergo a profound transformation. Irene Bateebe
agreed that in a bid to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for universal
access by 2030, it must invest.
“And today on the access side, looking at just distribution,
we need up to $5 billion to achieve our universal access agenda. Under our
energy strategy, we also seek to energize domestically to energize,” said
Tuzinde Mbaga, the Head of Regulatory at UmemeLtd Uganda's main
electricity distribution company estimated that Uganda may require $120 million
per year in the distribution segment. “It means that government should come in and
invest. So that there is a mix between private capital and money from the
government gives you the right tariff,” said Mbaga.
Experts in electricity distribution told URN that without a robust and flexible grid infrastructure, Uganda may face
challenges in maximizing the potential of renewable energy generation.