ELECTRICITY REGULATORY AUTHORITY (ERA) REDUCES COSTS FOR ELECTRICITY COOKING TO SAVE ENVIRONMENT

ZURAH NAKABUGO

The Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) has reduced electricity costs for cooking under domestic consumers from 747.5 Kwh to 412 Kwh with intent of encouraging people to cook using electricity other than using charcoal and firewood. 

Michael Mwondha, the Senior Economist Competition and Monitoring at ERA says, customer has 70 units every month to be bought at Shs 412Kwh reduction fee after he or she has reached the 80th unit per month.

 “The reduction which ERA board has approved is that the first 15 units are going to remain at the cost of Shs 250 per unit and after the 15th unit to 80th unit, each domestic consumer will consume power at the cost of 747.5 per Kwh. Then from unit 81 to 150 units, a customer will be purchasing power at Shs 412 Kwh every month,” he says.

Mwondha says, currently under lifeline tariffs, domestic consumers are purchasing power at Shs 250 per unit from 1 unit to 15 units and from 15th unit to 80 units at Shs 747.5 per unit (Kwh) per month.

“The units after 150kwh will get back to the normal cost of Shs 747.5 per kwh, with this intended to bar abuse of the domestic tariff,” he says.

The cost reduction in electricity cooking initiatives which is expected to start on January 1,2022, was announced by ERA Senior officials on Thursday 23 at their offices in Kampala.

Vianney Mutyaba, the Manager Pricing at ERA says, previously, the domestic customer paid Shs 747.5kwh for all the units,  but the ERA board approved that it reduces to shs 412 Kwh after the first 80 kwh units.

“The reduction aims at encouraging people to cook while using electricity other than using charcoal and firewood. This will then protect forest which bring rain, land and environment,” he says.

Micheal Mwondha Senior Economist Competition at ERA, Vianney Mutua the Manager Pricing and Mike Mbaziira the Senior Statistician at ERA during a press briefing about the new power tariffs held at ERA ;s new headquarters in Kampala

Mutyaba told Uganda Update that they are not stopping other initiatives that they have been running but they want to encourage people to use electricity while cooking other than using firewood and charcoal which spoils the environment.

The World Health Organization estimates 4.3 million global deaths a year due to indoor air pollution.

According to Uganda’s National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) report 2020, only 10 percent of Uganda’s rural population connected to the electrical grid, there is little option but to burn wood, leading to one of the worst deforestation rates in the world.

The report says, every year, 2.6 percent of the Uganda’s forests are cut down for firewood, charcoal, agriculture, and also make way for population growth. If things stay as they are, Uganda will lose all its forest cover in less than 25 years.

“We want to make sure we give an economic and financial reasons that can shift people from using charcoal and firewood to cooking using electricity at a cheaper cost,” Mutyaba says.

NEMA report also says, excessive tree cutting has led to long dry seasons in the country which wasn’t there before and this has led to crop failure, unpredictable rainfall, soil loose and deadly floods especially in Kaseese, Buduuda, Rwenzori mountains  and Kampala City.

Mutyaba says, if some people shift to cook using electricity, it will increase demand for power and this will lead to country’s economic development and also reduces on number of people cutting down of trees to ban charcoal and firewood.

“If people use less charcoal and firewood, it helps them to breathe clean air and also protect the environment,” he says.

Mutyaba says, they are targeting over 1.5 m customers in the country and they already have about 170,000 customers who have been using over 50 units per month.

Mutyaba says, they are also targeting at people who have installed big electric appliance like refrigerators and cookers in their homes but fear to use them due high electricity costs and the appliances are acting as decorations in their homes.

He says, however they are still facing the problem of vandalizing electricity which affects a wide range of people and this leads to load shedding.

“Basing on the data we have, vandalism causes more outrages than network. The whole village can get off power just because someone has vandalized. The ministry of Energy and Mineral development is now amending the law, to put penalties and punishments to people who vandalize electrical installations, “Mutyaba says.

The ministry is also putting investment requirements to support this initiative by knowing the electricity capacity of different areas during pick time like 7pm to 9pm to avoid issues of load-shedding when many people are using power at the same time.

Mike Mbaziira, the Senior Statistician at ERA noted that the current installed capacity is sufficient to support domestic cooking.

“The current network capacity of electricity will be able to handle to additional megawatts of consumers who will adopt the method of cooking using electricity. The Authority is working towards addressing the negative perceptions which communities have towards cooking using electricity,” he says.

Mbaziira advised people to avoid the myths that food cooked on electricity is not as taste as food cooked on firewood and charcoal.

He also says, in addition to the households, ERA is also considering promoting electric cooking in institutions with a pilot being taken in Mulago hospital.

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