Reliability Of Electricity Supply Essential For Uganda’s Socio-Economic Transformation
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By Stellah Nakibuuka
Electricity Regulatory Authority
Access to a Reliable Electricity Supply is a key driver for Socio-Economic Transformation and it has become the backbone of modern economies across the world. Reliable Electricity Supply refers to access to Electricity that is stable, without fluctuations in voltage, always available, and capable of supporting appliance usage, subject to the voltage capacity of the grid line.
The Government of Uganda National Development Plan III 2020/21 – 2024/25 under the Sustainable Energy Development Program emphasizes the need for increased access to a Reliable Electricity Supply to consolidate and increase the stock and quality of productive infrastructure.
Research done by the World Bank indicates that despite the Reliability of Electricity Supply being key to Socio-Economic Transformation, it is still a challenge in African countries, Uganda inclusive. Households, commercial consumers and industries endure several hours of outage and in instances where Electricity is available, sometimes brownouts do prevail. This implies that unreliable Electricity Supply negatively affects the incentivisation of potential entrepreneurs to establish businesses hence low economic development.
The impact of unreliable Electricity Supply is multidimensional as it affects all electricity consumers, constraining their utilization of the electricity service for both income productive and non-income productive uses.
Based on the limitations of unreliable Electricity Supply, the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) identified and prioritized the Reliability of Electricity Supply as one of the key strategic focus areas through 2025. Significant efforts are being directed towards ensuring improved Reliability of Electricity Supply. The Sector Regulator recognizes that for Electricity to contribute to Socio-Economic Transformation, Reliability needs to receive more attention.
This, however, requires costly investment and skilled control of the Electricity Network. In light of this, the Electricity Regulatory Authority came up with several interventions to address Reliability across the country. The interventions include but are not limited to the introduction of a Reliability Project named the “Reliability of Supply Improvement Project” (RSIP) to be implemented by a team of highly dedicated staff starting 2021/22 until 2025.
The objective of the Project is to drive electricity companies/operators to improve the Reliability of Supply in their areas of operation in line with the established reliability targets. The team is in charge of assessing the condition of both the Transmission and Distribution networks to ensure that they support Reliability. It is also charged with coming up with initiatives and proposals on improvement of reliability across the country and strict evaluation and following up on reliability initiatives put in place by the Electricity Transmission and Distribution Companies.
With improved Reliability, there are higher chances of reducing the cost of doing business, especially for the Small and Medium-size Enterprises (SMEs). It also encourage the setting up of more industries, which eventually creates employment for skilled and non-skilled labour, increase industrial productivity, and in the long run, boost the pace of Socio-Economic Transformation.
Due to a Reliable Electricity Supply, the quality of life of electricity consumers is envisaged to improve. Case in point, there will be a positive impact created on the delivery of health care, education, entertainment, security among other benefits. The Electricity Regulatory Authority with support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is implementing a pilot project called “Charcoal to Power” aimed at encouraging Ugandans to cook using electricity in homes, schools, hospitals, prisons, hotels and in other aspects that involve the use of firewood such as baking.
The Charcoal to Power project is being piloted at Mulago Hospital at the “Mwanamugimu Clinic”. When rolled out, it will be implemented at a subsidized tariff fit for cooking using electricity. Ugandans who will embrace the project will reduce the huge sums of money spent on firewood and charcoal. This project will however be successful only with the presence of a Reliable Electricity Supply which the Electricity Regulatory Authority is committed to achieving.
A Reliable Electricity Supply is a major trigger for Socio-Economic Transformation and development. This, however, requires a concerted effort by the different stakeholders to include increased capital investment to provide adequate network infrastructure, improved responsiveness of Electricity Companies and timely reporting by Electricity Consumers.