Uganda will host its second annual renewable energy conference and expo – the REC22 – this week, as it continues its quest to increase the contribution of renewables to its energy mix.
The conference, to be held under the theme ‘Renewable Energy for Sustainable Industrialization, Inclusive Growth and Economic Recovery’, will run from 3rd to 5th November, 2022 at Speke Resort, Munyonyo.
“Uganda and the rest of Africa share great challenges concerning reliable and affordable supply of sustainable or green energy. Addressing such challenges could be most effectively done if the academia, industry, government and non-governmental organization joined forces. That is what we hope to achieve at REC2022,” says Dr Brian Isabirye, the Commissioner, Renewable Energy Department at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD).
At last year’s event, the ministry launched the National Renewable Energy Platform (NREP) to coordinate all renewable energy stakeholders under a common program where solutions to the challenges affecting the sector would be sought collectively.
Renewable energy is derived from natural sources that are replenished at a higher rate than they are consumed. Sources of this energy include hydro, biomass, solar, wind, geothermal and peat.
Uganda’s current electricity access rate is 57 per cent with over $4 billion needed to ensure 100 per cent (universal) accessibility by 2030.
Boasting an installed capacity of 1,378.1 megawatts currently, the plan is to ramp it up to about 50,000MW by 2040, according to Irene Batebe, the permanent secretary at the energy ministry, who was speaking at the recent Mineral Wealth Conference (MWC) in Kampala.
Hydropower currently contributes about 80 per cent to the energy mix with the rest coming from solar, biomass cogeneration (often at sugar manufacturing plants) and thermal.
Batebe noted the urgent need to examine other sources of energy and also to increase the output from the conventional sources. River Nile, she said, only had the potential to produce a total of about 4,500MW to 5,000MW of hydropower when fully exploited.
For solar energy, it is just over 60MW connected to the grid currently but there is more that can be generated; with the country’s geographical location at the equator giving it an average of eight hours per day of continuous sunshine.
“Uganda’s location along the equator ensures high level of solar radiation averaging at 5.4KW/m2/day which is direct and uniformly distributed throughout the year. This resource is adequate to support all forms of solar energy applications,” said Ruth Nankabirwa, the energy minister, at the REC21, last year.
And with geothermal, the country’s potential stands at 1,500MW with four key geothermal prospects already identified including Katwe-Kikorongo, Buranga, Kibiro and Panyimur in Pakwach.
In effect, the conventional generation options of hydro and solar are not sufficient to support Uganda’s future needs, hence the need for more options.
“We must start planning judiciously today on how we will tackle that demand that will materialize in a few years from today. We need to bring on board alternative sources of electricity,” Batebe noted.
The REC22 will mainly focus on scientific, technical and organizational innovations as well as policy recommendations on sustainable energy generation, transmission and distribution.
REC22 is part of the ministry’s annual Energy and Minerals Week.