Nankabirwa’s “last mile” strategy of taking Power to the People

By Ibrahim E. Kasita

Uganda has made pronounced progress towards access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy.

51% of the urban population have access to clean energy compared to 10% registered in the past two decades, while 23% of the rural population have access to electricity up, from 1% recorded in the same period.

Renewable energy from various sources, which stands at 93%, continues to dominate the electricity sector, while Uganda has a very competitive Off-Peak Industrial Tariff in East Africa at sh. 179 per kilowatt hour (kWh).

In terms of quality of service, there has been improvements in respect to access of supply (new connections), customer service, and reliability of supply.

Thanks to an enabling environment with the right policies, institutions, strategic planning, regulations, and incentives.

Uganda has also balanced the objective of the financial viability of electricity suppliers with the need to keep consumer prices affordable, for example through strategic and targeted use of public funding.

Over 30 million people, mostly concentrated in rural areas, live their daily lives without electricity. This has impacts on a wide range of development indicators, including health, education, food security, gender equality, livelihoods, and poverty reduction.

More effort is needed to accelerate if the Uganda is going to meet SDG 7 – ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030.

Newly appointed Minister of Energy and Mineral development, Hon. Ruth Nankabirwa Ssentamu and Minister of State for Energy, Hon. Okaasai Sidronius Opolot, understand the importance of rural electrification to reduce poverty and stimulate growth.

In their recent Ministerial Field Tour to familiarise themselves with vital electricity infrastructure, the Ministers committed to work towards access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy.

Specifically, Hon. Nankabirwa disclosed the “last-mile” strategy of taking power to the people, with the main goal of achieving 60% access to grid electricity in Uganda by 2027.

Last-mile access is getting electricity to people’s homes, local businesses and public facilities.

Connecting low-income households to electricity in rural areas has been a challenge for decades because of the “high costs of supplying rural and periurban households” with electricity, a “lack of appropriate incentives”, “weak implementing capacity”, “population growth”, and the “cost of the internal wiring of consumers’ premise.”

 “This is in line with NDP III and Vision 2040 goals of increasing electricity access in the country in order to improve the quality of life of Ugandans through sustainable industrialisation for inclusive growth, employment and sustainable wealth creation,” she noted.

The Minister launched the resumption of Electricity Connection Policy (ECP) to address the new connection affordability challenges and its impact on accelerating access to electricity amidst the increase in power generation capacity as well as the expanded transmission and distribution network.

ECP obliges Government to meet the cost of the “no-pole” and “one-pole” connections, while consumers pay inspection fees of sh.20,000/- to Service Providers to facilitate inspection of house wiring to ensure that it is well done and safe to receive power.

While Government has imported connection materials worth 87,000 financed by African Development Bank (AfDB) to resume the No Pole Connections, funds have also been allocated to Small Service Providers (excluding Umeme) to resume free connections immediately.

Procurement of 230,000 no pole connections additional materials with financing from African Development Bank and Exim Bank of China (under TBEA) to sustain the ECP is underway.

Government is in advanced stages to secure US$ 400m from World Bank to support the ECP for a period of 5 years.

“Last Mile” strategy leverages efforts with development partners and the private sector by means of financial instruments along with reforms that promote commercial grid and off-grid operations and attract private investment.

“The above interventions, with public support should enable our people to access clean energy within the foreseeable future and contribute to the social economic transformation of our country,” the Minister said.

Ibrahim E. Kasita is a Senior Energy & Extractives Specialist

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