Green Energy: Ugandans Eye Solar Power As Demand Grows

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Mounted panels on solar-powered street in the city of Gulu

GULU, Uganda--A new weather pattern now hovers over the northern part of Uganda. The pattern presents delayed on set of rainfall and unusually non spot heavy precipitation lasting just seven months.

Under the new trend, the region now has just a single rainfall season compared to the dual season enjoyed in the 60s and 80s with rainfall beginning in February to June and the second season August to late November.

Over the last few decades, the region has been witnessing a gradual change in its rainfall pattern and weather patterns, with the last five years being unique in many ways. The first rainfall seasons have been preceded by prolonged drought leaving devastating crisis of pastures and water in their wake.

As farmers struggle to adjust their activities to achieve food security, weather experts, climatologists and environmentalists have hyped campaigns for clean energy, re-afforestation and green development. 

Mr. Okello James, the Gulu Forest Ranger currently acting as Gulu District Forestry Officer says farmers have are complaining alot due to poor crop performance. He says as more trees are being cut for charcoal and wood fuels, the situation might get worse. “Investing in green development would help to mitigate the adverse conditions we are experiencing. Solar would remove thousands of families using charcoal and fuel woods as primary source of energy. This way we shall have helped the environment by saving trees which are instrumental in rainfall formation and air purification”, Mr. Okello explained.

Achieving this target calls for mega investment in solar energy. Fortunately, Uganda is a tropical country with abundant potential of sunshine throughout the year. With low taxation on solar equipment, the climate of investment is somewhat promising for multinational corporations.

Perhaps, this is why the market is already flooded with solar facilities. And the business community is already cashing in on the development. Winyo Business Company is one of the many enterprises dealing in solar facilities in Gulu district. The company’s annual sale average 2,000 high quality solar panels.

Mr. Simon Onono, the General Manager of Winyo Business Company says solar products are fast attracting many buyers from rural communities in the region. “The major reason why solar has been selling highly over the last seven years that I have been in this business is that the coverage of rural electrification is very limited that thousands of people are left out of the national grid” Mr. Onono boastfully stated.

At Winyo Business Company, a 10watts solar panel sells for Shillings 35,000 (approximately US$9.86) while a 250 Watts Panel goes for Ugshs. 800, 000 (approx. US$ 221.18). with UMEME power utility selling a unit of electricity to domestic users at an average of 623.60 in the fourth quarter of 2016, investing in solar makes perfect economic sense.

Across the region, there are isolated investment in mega solar generation for rural transformation. Some of the installations belong to Ministry of Water and Environment for pumping safe and clean water to rural communities.

Eng. Odonga Terrance, the Gulu Municipal Engineer says they have also embraced Solar to power some of the streets in Gulu Municipality, Northern Uganda’s biggest urban center.

Eng. Odonga says to scale up investment in solar, foreign expertise and investment is required. “There is growing need for government to set up micro solar generation plants across the region in order to supply cheap, reliable and clean energy to the people”, he said.

Eng. Odonga says currently Gulu Municipality they have put 443 solar panels lighting Gulu at the cost of Sh2.7 billion, as part of adopting green environmental fighting climatic change.

Solar has potential to improve the life of ordinary Ugandans and alleviate poverty. Already, solar has given jobs to many once jobless youth in the Saloon industry in various business centers and villages in the region. Some are using solar to charge mobile phones which would otherwise be off while others use solar for lighting and entertainment at home.

“To us solar energy looks simple and more sustainable, there should be general greening of the city that everyone must embrace. Both local government and Gulu community should identify land for solar plants to increase uptake” Eng. Odonga remarked.

Eng. Odonga says that at the moment Gulu Municipality does not have enough money to plan a green city. He says a green city would be the best vehicle to teach the importance of solar to the ordinary people. In conclusion, Uganda is desperate for mega foreign investment in the solar sector to complement hydroelectricity.

 

 

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