- Dubbed A Clean Energy Transition for all, the conference explored innovative solutions driving the clean energy transition.
- Ignorance and negative attitudes towards change, particularly prevalent in rural and slum areas, are identified as major challenges.
- The threat of counterfeit solar products to the transition journey to clean energy was also unveiled.
Energy plays an important role in improving people’s quality of life, reducing dependency on environmentally harmful practices, enhancing security and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
Uganda has abundant energy resources like solar, thermal energy, and hydro energy.
Yet, alarmingly, there is widespread energy poverty, with an energy crisis looming and infrastructure and natural resources being destroyed due to climate change.
Uganda has gradually transitioned to using renewable energy in several ways, such as using solar as a light source and powering electric appliances.
Nonetheless, there are gaps that need to be filled by sensitizing the masses and holding discussions around transitioning to clean energy for all.
From November 16-18, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD) Republic of Uganda organized a Renewable Energy and Expo 2023; the event was an information hub for all things pertaining clean energy.
Dubbed A Clean Energy Transition for All, the conference explored innovative solutions driving the clean energy transition as industry leaders discussed shaping the future of clean energy in Uganda. The event was held at the Speke Resort Munyonyo, Kampala.
Unlocking investments in renewable energy
This session of the conference was chaired by Dr. Nicholas Mukisa from the National Energy Platform Uganda, and sought to mobilize investments in renewable projects and businesses.
In a bid to catalyze financing for renewable energy projects and programs, the Uganda Energy Credit Capitalization Company (UECCC) played a pivotal role as a major player and important input of the Renewable Energy Conference 2023 & Expo (REC23 & Expo).
“We typically serve as a credit support institution and our key partners are financial institutions and energy service companies; UECCC is a government of Uganda company in a place to facilitate and catalyze financing for renewable energy projects and programs,” said Roy Baguma, Representative from UECCC.
As the implementing agency for the financial intermediation component of the electricity access Scala project, UECCC aims to facilitate the financing of clean cooking solutions, solar home systems, and enterprise initiatives, with a substantial ticket size of $110 million.
However, he noted that they experience some challenges with component-based systems for solar where the tax treatment is not aligned.
Baguma alluded that they are presently implementing a result-based financing program where they will provide subsidies of up to 60%, providing comfort for asset markets to get into the energy market.
“We need to incentivize it to that level to help rural households migrate from diesel operating systems which they have been very comfortable with traditionally,” he explained.
He assured that UECCC is in place to come up with all the innovative ways that can be able to respond to the private sector so that they can be able to grow the PUE market.
Dr. Brian Isabirye, a commissioner at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, stated that the ministry launched a policy review to transition from zero to something in transitioning to clean energy.
However, he noted that the transition needed finances like capital or loans and resources to invest.
“EU in Uganda and its member States are global leaders in the transition towards clean energy so if investors work together then we are confident that our partners will appreciate this journey that the country is taking with renewable energy,” stated the commissioner.
Dr. Isabirye also acknowledged that transitioning to green jobs required more than just halting charcoal use.
“Let’s invest in infrastructure and seize opportunities for a sustainable future. Stopping Ugandans from cooking using charcoal isn’t just enough,” he noted.
At the conference’s closing ceremony, Dr. Isabirye was awarded for his outstanding role in organizing this year’s Renewable Energy Conference & Expo 2023.
Religious leaders as change agents
Acknowledging the profound impact of religious leaders, Reverend Emmanuel Kaagala and other influential figures proved to be actively engaged in a dialogue on clean energy and sustainable practices.
In a Q&A session, the religious leaders acknowledged the challenges that hinder the full transition into clean energy.
“Ignorance and negative attitudes towards change, particularly prevalent in rural and slum areas, are identified as major challenges,” Rev. Kaagala noted.
He acknowledged that the population in urban centers has embraced clean energy compared to those in rural areas, attributing it to a lack of sensitization and a negative attitude towards change.
“People have negative attitude towards change until it takes place and then we take long to adapt,” added Rev. Kaagala.
While giving his input in the religious leaders’ dialogue, an Iman of the Muslim faith acknowledged the lack of facilities and lack of enforcement as the two biggest hurdles.
“We don’t have the facilities to encourage green energy or renewable energy utilization neither do we have people who are really enforcing or implementing these practices,” he said.
In his part, Prof. Peter Nyende, as part of a solution, said that these challenges can be solved through education and training.
“This is an existential problem and it is important for education and training to happen on these issues coupled with knowledge on really what is available; religious leaders being trained and educated on issues is key,” said Prof. Nyende.
Call for regulation
The threat of counterfeit solar products to the transition journey to clean energy was also unveiled.
Experts at the REC2023 warned that the surge in counterfeit solar panels, batteries of unknown origin, and unreliable installers is undermining trust in Uganda’s journey toward clean energy.
“If one acquires a solar system and it’s not working, and they don’t have after-sales service or guarantees, then it means they’re going to be discouraged and all the people around them are likely to be discouraged from buying solar systems,” said Mr. Ivan Tumuhimbise, a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Country Director in Uganda.
He urged the government, through the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), to take swift action against sellers dealing in sub-standard solar panels.
James Kakeeto, WWF Regional Energy Officer, stressed the importance of creating an enabling environment for Uganda’s ambitious goal of achieving 100% renewable energy by 2050, which includes implementing policies, regulations, and incentives to attract investment and support local innovations.
Kakeeto called on the government to invest in local innovations in promoting renewable energy.
He suggested measures such as tax holidays and waivers to make solar products more affordable within the country.
“We need to research and fund local innovations, including encouraging local production or assembly of solar panels and batteries.
We can look at other incentives like tax holidays and tax waivers that will allow these solar products to be affordable within the country,” he recommended.
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The conference was attended by honorable ministers, Members of Parliament, Members of Diplomatic Call, Permanent Secretaries, Heads of Agencies, Dignitaries from the urban authorities, representatives from local governments, public sector, civil society and academia from Uganda and beyond.