Friday, October 4, 2013 – Uganda’s Worldwide Energy Window

The website presents an opportunity for us to analyze and present opinions on developments in the energy sector to everybody anywhere in the world – the global village, the internet. Over the past 10 or so months, we have written on new developments, with a focus on renewable energy, the focus for the future of humanity. The visibility of Uganda and possibly the region on the energy perspective is our prime target.

Perhaps most important, the presentation is made with the ordinary person in mind, aiming to give him an understanding of important issues, while at the same time informing her/him of new developments, a critique of sorts, and, where we need to move forward.

The site has over 250 articles, reflecting on some developments on the global scene in the recent past, along with articles on Uganda, presenting our progress, with some background on Uganda provided under the link under the



The first title bar consisting of:
  • Home
  • About
  • Contacts
  • Gallery
The Home button brings you back to the homepage (first page you see when you go to the Energynewz website), the about button tells you about the Website, what it is about. The Contacts button gives you information about us or contacting us (EnergyNewz).

The Gallery button has all the images of all the articles for independent viewing; however one can go directly to the article in which the image is embedded. 

The second title bar consisting of:
  • Battery
  • Bio
  • Efficiency
  • Geothermal
  • Hydro
  • Power saving 
  • Solar
  • Wind
These are categories in which the different articles fall. Every article has a specific category in which it falls.

The Homepage has the latest article that was published. In this case ‘Energy Efficiency – Origins of Prominence’ was last published on Friday 13th September 2013 as indicated on the screenshot above.

Navigating the site:

  • To find a specific article one can type the title or the content in the search space top right of the first title bar, as indicated on the screenshot.
  • If you are on a page and feel lost but would like to go back to the homepage, you look up at the first task bar and click Home. 
  • Finding out what page/ category/ article, you are on is easy to do. You look at the top of the article.

(See screenshot below for illustration

The article title status will have:

Home >> Category >> Title of the article


In the illustration above, the main display is an open article; 
Feed-in-Tariff Scheme to Boost Small Uganda’s Hydro Development

This is the title of the article as is illustrated above. The article has been selected for purposes of demonstrating an open article and how to navigate away, and, how to find out which page the navigator/ browser/ individual is on.

The area in the blue rectangle in the illustration shows the recent articles. This means the articles that were last posted. Once you click on any of the titles of the articles, it opens it into full view, a view that allows an individual to read it, like the article inset.

Next to the recent articles are the popular articles, these are the articles that have the most comments. They have been viewed by many people and have comments which show people’s opinions on the subject.


The slide bar above shows the latest articles for each category. In the illustration, it shows categories;
  • Latest in Battery (first)
  • Latest in Bio (second)
  • Latest in geothermal (third)
NB. This slide bar has other categories as you click the arrows (left and right).

The Window – slide bar helps you to scroll/ move/ navigate downwards towards the end of the site. 
As illustrated in the screenshot, the window slide bar is almost half way, which indicates the web page was moved half way downwards.  


The Comment in the illustration shows where to click to write your comment on an article preferred.
When you click the comment you are provided with a fill in form for your details and the comment.
Here as illustrated below, you have to type in your:
  • name
  • email address
  • website. (optional)
  • comment, and, click the submit button at the end

Tags are keywords or can be one keyword that is frequently used in the article and are a source of identification with other articles that have the same keyword(s).

  • They are arranged in ascending order, from A to Z and have different sizes symbolizing how many articles it is appearing in. 
  • The mouse, once over a tag, displays the number of articles that it appears in. If you click on a particular tag, it displays a list of the articles in which the tag appears.
A collective of archives is located at the bottom of the page on the right. These have all the articles according to the date they were posted. It is possible to click the arrow to see which month you would like to go to and find out the different articles in it.

Alternatively, if an article was referred to in another article or it was sited to have been written by date, you can locate it using the archives at the bottom of the page.

In our case we started in November 2012 to date, which means they run from November 2012 to date.

At the bottom we have links that take you to our social pages, this is indicated as follow us.

Advertisements as illustrated in the screenshot above, these are available spaces to which subscription can be made for your advertisement. This can be done by contacting us.


Form any queries about how to navigate the site, you can:
You will then be contacted with help as soon as will be practicable.
Please enjoy as you search for more information and news on

Written and Compiled by
Iga D. Ronnie
IT Support and O&M – Energy Newz

Friday, September 27, 2013

Uganda’s High Population Growth Impacts Energy Sector


Against a background of turbulence from Amin’s era, one thing is certain – population has been growing fast. Given the trends of war, development suffers, including the energy sector. The pattern of high dependence on biomass remained unabated, with continuing depletion of vegetation cover. Urgent need for replanting of trees is necessary, along with measures to increase share of other methods for cooking for the vast majority of Ugandans, not to mention the importance of checking population growth.

Population growth
Uganda’s population has been growing at a fast rate. From a humble 2.24 million people in 1962, there was a phenomenal leap to 7.49 million the following year.

Looking at it at 5-year intervals from 1965 through 2010, we notice a fast growth trend, see chart following:

Implications of population growth
Growth in human numbers has many implications, some positive, others negative. It also very much depends on the country situation, whether highly productive and requiring substantial labor, skills at different levels for deployment, abundance of resources, export potential in terms of goods, services and skills, beside a host of other considerations.

The situation of Uganda in respect of fast increasing population needs to closely look at: 
  • Food supply: more is required, and with greater dependence on local production, more effort is required to guarantee food security;
  • Energy supply: more people mean more energy, assuming limited related parameter changes;
  • Land: with near-total local food sourcing for the majority population, more arable land is required, assuming same productivity, crop and animal breeds etc;
  • Pressure on land: while more people require more dwelling / homestead land, there is also greater need for it in terms of both food and energy production;
  • Productivity: the falling levels of vegetation and tree cover mean more time spent on both getting adequate quantities of food for survival, and, search for firewood; and,
  • Other economic activity: these suffer due to need for more time to meet food and energy needs, to mention but a few.
A spiraling population means you do not only have more mouths to feed, but also a host of parameters to contend with, with only a few of them cited above.

Loss of forest cover
The indiscriminate cutting of trees in the past was responsible for loss of much of our hard woods. While some was exported, others fed the local market for construction applications and furniture making. 

Today, much of the hard wood is reported to be imported from beyond our borders – Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and Southern Sudan reportedly.

Various reports have decried loss of forest cover, viz:
Clearly, the situation is alarming.

Remedial measures needed
The necessary actions span a number of areas. These relate to institution of forest regeneration policies by government, improving cooking efficiency in rural areas, and, controlling population growth.  

Forest regeneration
I have heard of sayings such as ‘cut one tree plant two’ which I believe are part of the right mindset in our present circumstances. This pre-supposes that there are indeed trees that deserve cutting, but just in case the contrary is true, other deliberate programmes need to be put in place.

Along this path, we have great confidence in the National Forestry Authority (NFA) in the country to take the bull by its horns, in proposing a feasible action plan that ought to be implemented at the earliest.

Planting nurseries
Experts have made this route a very good one in achieving recovery. This route should indeed ensure that the right type is made available for planting to different groups.

What we probably need is a legislative instrument to make this enforceable country-wide if not existing already, with the prospect of achieving a steady recovery path for the essential cover.

Improved stoves
While we need to commend the various efforts to make and disseminate such stoves, we seem to have a very long way to go.

One major area from the energy perspective is the overwhelming dependence on biomass as a source of energy, way beyond 90 percent. As such, the rudimentary cooking approaches need to be relegated to history archives.

Upgrading energy technologies in general
Although biomass is at the bottom of the efficient technologies, an overall effort to raise standards of energy use across board would have a trickle-down effect at the grassroots.

This challenge is currently being sought, but much more needs to be done if we are to make some noticeable impact at the lowest levels of users.

Population growth
The sheer numbers alone can be a burden if not sufficiently educated to contribute to meaningful development through participation in industrial and other high-skill output areas.

Unfortunately, high numbers with low skills can draw us into a vicious cycle increasing poverty and suffering, a tendency that need to be vigorously fought. This is a challenge for us all – government, the private sector, and, the individual citizenry. Government has to play the lead role, with all of us rendering it unwavering support.

Tags: population growth, energy, food security, pressure on land, forest cover, forest regeneration, nurseries      

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Uganda’s Energy Sector Set Back by Amin Era

Starting with pre-independence times, energy was set on a good footing, with grid electricity available in the late fifties. With the ascension of Idi Amin to power, there was gross negligence of important tenets for the maintenance and growth of the energy sector. This resulted in retrogressive trends from a number of angles.

Idi Amin addressing a rally

The sixties
Having attained self-governance on October 9th 1962, Uganda was set on a good energy course, starting with good access to electricity, a modest population of 2.24 million people for the resources envelope available at the time.

At that time, the supply of electricity from Owen Falls Power was already available, meeting all needs of the day, not to mention the surplus even after export to Kenya. Many people with access to grid electricity at the time did not even imagine that electricity may be thermally generated where hydropower potential is unavailable.

The seventies to eighties
With Amin ascending to power in 1969, the seventies were characterized by a ‘gross negligence of planning and good operation and maintenance practices’. This is not to say that all that was done was void of good things entirely. We will however focus on what impinges on energy matters.

Expulsion of Asians
Starting from the pre-independence times, Asians were brought in East Africa to help the British with the construction of the railway from Mombasa Kenya through to Kasese in western Uganda to carry to the Indian Ocean the copper from Kilembe Mines en-route to England.

Expelled Asians on a train leaving Uganda

largely occupied the skilled technician level in industry in general, both in large and small industries, be they public or private.

To cut the long story short, the Asian community got deeply involved in business and manufacturing in the region.

At expulsion, industry and business were dealt a blow, bringing much of those sectors to a near-halt.

Competent Ugandans out of business and industry

As if the expulsion of Asians was not enough, many skilled Ugandans were edged out of business, many losing lives while others fled for dear lives.

To put it mildly, a cadre of Ugandans had been developed from colonial times, with much of the competence that could enable them to take over from their Asian counterparts. This was however not to be seen in that light by the regime of the day!

Amin, a man of very humble background, felt more secure with his cronies of limited exposure, whom he allocated many businesses.

Those in trade did not see value in records of business, including supplier details, did not prudently manage businesses and industry, leading to rapid decline.

Energy Implications
The impact of this regime on the energy sector in general were, amongst others, a big reduction in efficiency at the hither-then vibrant electricity sub-sector, with reduced industrial consumption for oil, yet growth in biomass consumption without due make-up efforts.

Uganda Electricity Board (UEB) suffers neglect
Starting way back in 1948, concerted efforts were put in place to exploit the hydroelectric potential of the country.

In the mid-fifties, the Nalubaale Power Station, then code-named Owen Falls Power Station (OFPS), was commissioned at Jinja. It indeed became a symbol of industrial progress, meeting both the needs of Uganda and helping out Kenya with exports.

Ugandans with access to electricity were to enjoy the modern amenities of energy then, not to mention industry which had the prospect of getting unfettered power without interruption.

In line with the saying – ‘milking a cow without feeding it’, Idi Amin’s regime was to subject UEB to neglect and paying a deaf ear to advice on the same.

These shortcomings may be summarized as:
  • Planning: neglect of this important role;
  • Maintenance: this was compromised, overlooking activities essential for sustenance in state of good repair;
  • Revenues: these were diverted to other uses;
  • Management: competence was relegated to politically motivated appointments; and,
  • Decline: by the end of the regime, a number of turbines, 4 out of 10, were out of service, beside others.

Petroleum products
The range of products and their respective quantity requirements heavily depended on the overall economic setting.

As we demonstrate later on in the blog, a vibrant manufacturing setting plays a very important role in oil product scope and needs. With many industries having frequent shutdowns or total closure, a big share of the oil industry products seized to be required.

Transport on the other hand heavily depended on petrol and diesel. Problems were experienced in supply quantities or interruptions, leading to scarcities. 

On its part, the government of the day designed schemes to ensure supply of its key operations, with the public having to queue for supplies. Filling stations would indulge in hoarding, while many drivers would follow supply trucks in the hope of being amongst the ones to be served early. 

We often had to spend hours in long queues waiting to be served, having arrived after dawn, while 14-seater public transporters and a few others that arrived before daybreak were being served.

The consumption of firewood grew unabated, given a poor setting for conversion to modern forms of energy supply and the rapidly growing population.

The absence of guidance of government on regeneration of biomass also meant that surplus capacity to sustain demand without decline of stocks was threatened.

It is indeed regrettable that there is still an overwhelming dependence on biomass use in the forms used by our ancestors.

Manufacturing declined
Having started with allocation of these enterprises to political cronies, performance suffered greatly, often ending up in total closure.

Developments in the industrial sector, on basis of know-how, may be summed up as:
  • Skills: many with technical competence were either expelled, fired, demoted, run away for dear life or killed;
  • Performance:  many facilities greatly declined in output quantities, or were unable to produce their traditional product range in full;
  • Breakdowns: many avoidable mistakes were committed, leading to shutdowns, some minor in nature, others major; 
  • Closures: these marked the climax, especially in enterprises with meticulous operational, start-up and shutdown procedures;
Other industrial sector issues related to:
  • Materials: failure to use the right inputs;
  • Suppliers: failure to link up or close deals with previous suppliers;
  • Markets: failure to access or ignorance of markets; and,
  • Credentials: failure to demonstrate integrity with potential business partners offshore, to mention but a few.
Collapse of the East African Community
The East African Community (EAC), then comprising of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, came to an unceremonious end in 1977, largely due to tensions arising out of Amin’s tendencies.

Its demise had a number of implications, viz:
  • Member states shared out assets, largely based on geographic location;
  • Many new organizations had to be setup for national continuity;
  • Goodwill was low, if not entirely lost in a number of instances;
  • Business climate suffered; and,
  • Operating environments became harder, especially for Uganda that is land-locked, beside others.
In respect of energy, the following can be mentioned:
  • East African Airways: this was replaced by national airlines, with varying fortunes;
  • Entebbe Airport: lost its hub status in the region to Nairobi, a situation that remains today;
  • East African Railways & Habours: its end marked the beginning of problems for the rail sub-sector in Uganda, literally still in limbo;
  • Goods transport: Uganda’s imports of goods remains heavily dependent on road transport at great cost in terms of fuel and roads, not to mention the attendant inefficiency and high fuel bills;
In conclusion
The advent of the Idi Amin era had a big dent on the energy platform for the country.

The electricity sub-sector was used as a source of revenue for other purposes, while it was left to deteriorate to very low levels of performance, threatening its very existence.

The brain-drain of both locals and expatriates resulted in long-term negative effects on manufacturing in general and industry in particular, with negative spillover effects on the energy sector.

Biomass use was denied the requisite attention for its much needed growth, not to mention putting strategies for its sustainability in place.

The EAC – then of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda – was dealt a death-blow, negative effects of which are still being felt today.

Uganda was drawn back a number of decades in several areas, key amongst which is the energy sector.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Uganda’s Pre-Independence Energy Sector

Like most of our great grandfathers, firewood and biomass have characterized the energy spectrum for many years. As a matter of fact, man’s energy use can rightly be associated with these pre-historic forms. Uganda has been no exception. While the standard of living was relatively high for much of the country before independence, things may have stalled for a host of reasons, relegating the country to continued over-dependence on biomass and firewood.

Uganda attained self-governance way back in 1962. Prior to that, there were groups of explorers with different intentions and objectives.

Explorers / traders
The Arabs found their way into the country largely for trade, bringing in small items and indulging in a variety of trade practices that I would not like to delve into. They also introduced Islam, a supplement to the then existing local beliefs and practices.

Other explorers included missionaries, bringing in with them both Catholicism and Anglicanism. These also promoted development through education, healthcare and others, beside their beliefs.

Roman Catholic Cathedral at Rubaga

Along with the advent of the religious groups, there was the coming of the association with colonial rulers, specifically from the United Kingdom, ultimately resulting in creation of a protectorate as opposed to a colony as was the case in Kenya.

These groups introduced merchandise on top of what existed at the time. 

Lifestyles of the times
Prominent amongst what existed are the following:
  • Dwellings existed in terms of grass-huts and later mud and wattle houses, roofed with an assortment of materials including grass, papyrus and the like;
  • Clothing was various, but in particular, bark-cloth was used in central Uganda;
  • Clay pots were made and use for storage and cooking; and,
  • Blacksmiths also existed, making tools for domestic use and hunting, beside others.
Energy dimension
All in all, there was great dependence on traditional cooking methods, practices that continue to exist today. 
In terms of energy we can roughly say the following:
  • Fires were already being lit in the country prior to the coming of explorers;
  • Game and other meats were roasted on fires;
  • Food was being cooked in pots;
  • Clay pots, given their porous nature, were already being used to keep and also cool water especially for drinking; and,
  • Hunting and other metallic tools were being made by blacksmiths, beside others.

Firewood and biomass were in use as the main sources of energy, if not entirely. The population was quite small in comparison to the forest cover and vegetation. As such, it was an easy task to gather firewood for the purpose. 

3-stone cooking with firewood

Much of the cooking was in the open, thereby reducing the impact of the smoke influence on health, let alone imagination that there could be any harm to humans.

Food was kept warm under the cover of hot ash, a semblance of an oven.

As a matter of fact, some foods like cassava could be peeled surface dried under modest heat from an open fire, prior to cooking under hot ash beneath a fire.

Petroleum products
These were introduced to the market before independence, mainly in the forms of paraffin, petrol and diesel.

On the domestic front, the middle and upper class first made use of paraffin for lighting, to be followed later by several other groups in society.

For the majority poor, the simple ‘tin paraffin lamp’ has served and continues to do so extensively.

Conceptual Paraffin Wick Light

For upper classes, lanterns have been in use, some pressurized with a gauze, but the majority with wicks and a glass.

Paraffin pressurized lantern

Paraffin has also been used for cooking, with stoves of various designs.
Paraffin stoves

While the bicycle came on the market first, the days of the ‘coffee boom’ brought the motorcycles on the market. These were of the two-cycle type, employing a petrol-oil mixture.

Those in the top class of civil servants, professionals and administrators bought cars as early as the mid-fifties. These were predominantly petrol powered.

As for trucking and buses, diesel engines were more in use, helping reduce the burdens of goods and passengers at large.

The railway was constructed in the 1890s, primarily to transport copper from mines in western Uganda, at the foot of Rwenzori Mountain.

Steam engines were originally used as prime-movers extensively, until much later when the diesel engine was introduced.

A Steam engine of East Africa Railways

Construction of the Railway to Kasese in Western Uganda

Grid electricity
As you may probably be aware, Uganda’s first hydropower station was constructed in the fifties, giving the middle and upper classes close to the built distribution network an opportunity to make use of it.

Construction of Nalubaale Power Station in 1950s

In most homes, electricity was used for lighting, but later came to be used for other purposes as running limited appliances of the time, in particular flat irons and cookers later on.

Offices also benefited for purposes of lighting, and later on, a limited range of office equipment, including communications.

Long before attainment of self governance, there was the telephone, radio and later the television (TV). These all employed electricity in one form or other as we discuss below.

This will make reference to all equipment of that time and equivalents. The first communication was limited to administrative / government groups, with power from either winding a generator manually or use of batteries.

Later, this was to advance to use of grid electricity, with a wider usage group.

This category later advanced to masts for air-wave transmission, powered by batteries and mains electricity.

I can recall some of the early radios, with batteries roughly half the size of small car batteries, or the size for motorcycles. These were later upgraded to the mains electricity plug-in type.

The TV also was around prior to 1962, the year Uganda attained independence. While some were powered off batteries, a practice that remains to the present date, conversion to mains electricity assumed higher proportions. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Commercial Users of Energy in Uganda – Hotels, Shopping Centers and Transport

Categories under this group are many, but we will restrict ourselves to hotels or leisure centers, shopping centers, airports, transport for people and goods.

Many other small commercial activities may be deemed to depend on energy to a limited extent. In such instances, we think these could be skipped in this discussion. Examples of these are markets, where much of the local farm produce is sold. These mostly operate during the day, requiring no lighting, and largely open in early mornings to receive merchandise from farms or gardens in bulk, display it for customers to procure through the day. At the end of the day, surplus goods that are still in good condition for purchase the following day are covered overnight.

Those which extend their services beyond sunset do use lighting, which is electric in bigger urban centers, or use paraffin lamps in limited instances. Much of the transport in use is small pickup trucks, although some foods are transported over long distances on larger trucks.

These fall in various categories, from classified ones on the upper end, of star ranking from one to five. Others are below such ranking, although commonly referred to as hotels.

High ranking hotels
These are across the country, with the bulk of them in upper level urban areas as Kampala City, the capital, Entebbe where the international airport is located and major towns as Jinja, Mbarara, Mbale and Masaka.

3 – 5 star hotels
These have most of the facilities such as conference halls, swimming pools, health centers, kitchens, cold storage, air conditioning, standby power generation facilities, as well as other services beside the conventional guest accommodation in terms of rooms and suites.
Kampala Serena Hotel


Machines in Health Club – Kampala Serena Hotel

Source: Valuation Report by Dunn, Kampala Serena Hotel and International Conference Centre, Dec 200

International Conference Centre – Kampala Serena Hotel

Source:Valuation Report by Dunn, Kampala Serena Hotel and International Conference Centre, Dec 2007

Swimming Pool - Kampala Serena Hotel

Source: Valuation Report by Dunn, Kampala Serena Hotel and International Conference Centre, Dec 2007

Energy sources include, grid electricity, standby generators, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), and diesel.

Electricity is extensively used for air conditioning, lighting and operating an assortment of equipment and lifts where available. Whenever there are any power cuts, generators are often turned on automatically, to minimize interruption.

As for cooking, LPG is increasingly used in kitchens, alongside other equipment that are electrically operated.

Petroleum fuels are variously used for vehicles, water heaters or boilers at times, and, running standby thermal generators.

Smaller hotels

Smaller hotels tend to have fewer services while at the same time depend more on biomass as their source of energy. This largely applies to cooking, where improved stoves are more frequent, and water heating in particular. Electricity is more applicable to refrigerators, lighting and sometimes ironing.

The term hotels in this country is sometimes used out of context, especially for eating houses in many places, especially more so in the rural context. Paraffin is used for lanterns when lighting is required, especially in lodging facilities and dining rooms that tend to close early in evenings, unlike their counterpart larger hotels. 

Churchhill Courts Hotel – Uganda

Leisure centers
These are gradually picking up in numbers, often with motorized equipment, hence use grid electricity  .

Shopping centers
Many malls and shops depend on grid electricity to meet their power needs – largely display and roof lighting, refrigerated displays and cold rooms. In only a few instances do we find shopping malls using standby generators when grid power is unavailable.

Freedom City Shopping Mall – Kampala

The airports largely use grid electricity for most of their needs. These are various, from special equipment and appliances, through air conditioning, conveyor systems, lifts and others. They also provide standby generators in case grid electricity is off.

The rural aerodromes are much simpler, with limited need for lighting, often having flights land and take off during the day.

Entebbe International Airport

This will be broken down into land, water and air. We will also briefly discuss this under passengers and goods.

  • Land: Under land, most land transport is road based in terms of goods and human transport. Being landlocked, much of our import cargo comes into the country by road, given that our old diesel-engine powered rail transport has been literally out of use for years. Public transport is poorly developed, with most commuters travelling in 14-seater vans largely powered by gasoline, while longer trips feature a sizeable bus fleet powered by diesel. Because public transport is poor and largely unscheduled, many individuals use personal cars, a tendency that breeds great inefficiency from several angles – congestion, a small average number of passengers per vehicle, excessive fuel use and pollution and the like.There are plans to revamp rail transport, and also extend rail services to reach Rwanda, beside widening the network in the country.
    Heavy goods  transport in Uganda

  • Water: This mode of transport is dominated by traditionally made canoes, largely used by fishermen, but also used for passenger and goods movement on our lakes. While many of these are manually rowed, an increasing number is acquiring outboard gasoline engines.Government has also a number of large cargo ships especially on Lake Nalubaale, with some ferries moving between strategic link points in order to provide the public at large with viable modes of transport.Some individuals own leisure bouts, mostly on Lake Nalubaale, largely based at Entebbe. 
    Fishing canoes on Lake Nalubaale in Uganda

  • Air: This mode is largely dominated by smaller aircraft shuttling both in the country and region. There are also bigger carriers especially on international routes which use Entebbe International Airport. There are a number of internal airdromes, largely unpaved, in Arua, Kisoro and other parts of the country.
    Small cargo aircraft in Uganda

  • Small goods transport: While small pickups / vans and lorries / trucks are employed in movement of goods, there is an army of motorcycle compliment for generally smaller goods packages, radiating, from deep in the countryside to urban areas. These are in no small measure supplemented by bicycles, and to a lesser extent carts drawn by people or animals.
    A typical small van for goods in Africa

  • Small-time passenger transport: Very much like smaller goods transport, motorcycles and bicycles, commonly termed ‘boda-boda’ have done a great job meeting the needs, especially in the rural areas. While these often prove to be  a traffic nuisance especially in the city, leading to many accidents, injuries and sometimes death, it cannot be overstated that they have filled a huge gap in transport for the poor, especially in the countryside. The public transport is dominated by 14-seater vans, see picture below:
    Old taxi park – Kampala

Monday, August 26, 2013

Large Industry Use and Cogeneration of Energy in Uganda

Industrial Sectors
Major primary energy sources in industries of medium and large scale are oil and electricity, although some employ wood and charcoal. Many long established industries are employing old technologies, with the attendant issues related to efficiency and environmental degradation. Following the establishment of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), new ventures are required to meet statutory requirements prior to being granted construction permits. NEMA is increasingly being felt in getting operators to fall in line with law on good environmental practices.

Uganda is a predominantly agricultural country. Major crops have included coffee, cotton, tea, sugar, tobacco, cereals, nuts, edible oil and more recently picked up on flowers.

On the metals front, Uganda used to process copper for export, the main reason the railway line was constructed to Mombasa through Nairobi. Today, the story is somewhat different, with other limited metal mining activities. On the other hand, the steel making industry has seen more players coming into the picture.

Uganda used to be referred to as a country of the ‘three-Cs’ – coffee, cotton and copper. In the recent past, the copper industry literally drew to a close, although changing world market copper prices may change that in time. In the meantime, recovery of cobalt from the piles of copper waste was undertaken using the only cobalt bioleach operation in the world. Coffee continues to be one of the big foreign exchange earners, while cotton has been characterized by varying fortunes, despite being said to be only second to that of Egypt in quality.

The keeping of cattle in Uganda has in the past seen the emergence of meat processing for export, while the dairy industry continues to thrive.

Uganda is also endowed with limestone, with two cement plants, one in Tororo to the east and another at Hima in the west.

Uganda also ramped up fishing activity, with a view to cash in on export markets, albeit with mixed results as depletion of stocks is threatening the industry.

Industrial base to the Seventies
In the past, Uganda had a reasonable manufacturing base largely based in Jinja, with other centers in Kampala’s industrial suburb and other towns like Mbale.

Textile industry
Jinja was home to Nyanza Textile Industries Ltd (NYTIL), probably the largest textile industry in East and Central Africa for a long time. Having cotton said to be only second in quality to that of Egypt, there was a lot of cotton growing, feeding NYTIL in Jinja and African Textile Mills (ATM) at Mbale, both producing quality cotton finished products, with Lira Spinning Mill in northern Uganda, and later Uganda Garment Industries (UGIL) making shirts, t-shirts and other products in Kampala.

NYTIL and ATM once had setups similar to this

These industries used furnace oil for steam generation, alongside electricity for driving motors and lighting. In the late years of its existence, NYTIL acquired an electrode boiler, which was later to fall into disuse for issues related to grid electricity supply – tariffs and reliability.

Today, much of the textile sector has declined from its past glory, in some instances changed ownership and restructured somewhat.

Today, the cotton industry continues to exist, with cotton production patterns changed largely due to past wars in northern Uganda, but with many other small operators in the industry.

Coffee industry
Uganda has been a sizeable exporter on the world market, have grown the crop largely for export from pre-independence times.

Uganda has many growers of the coffee across the country, with 'arabica' grown mainly in mountainous eastern region, with much of the remaining country growing 'robusta' brands.


Coffee beans after processing

Many years ago, wet coffee processing was widely practiced, but, has since been replaced by dry processing, in factories using motor drives largely powered by grid electricity as thermal power generation costs have proved more prohibitive over time.

While there is some roasting of coffee, most coffee is exported in semi-processed form – dried beans with outer skin removed. 

Coffee roasting is also undertaken in the country, on a small scale, given that Ugandans are not a big coffee drinking community however. The roasting processes largely employ biomass on account of cost.

Tea industry
The tea industry is largely fully integrated, with plantations in close proximity to the processing factories. These use biomass for heating and electricity for motor drives and lighting, mostly connected to the grid.


Tea withering 

While Ugandans take more tea than coffee, the bulk of it is exported, through auctions at the coastal port of Mombasa in Kenya.

The sugar industry is one of the few groups that have seen expansion over time. Starting with two private sector companies in the names of Kakira Sugar Works (KSW) in Jinja and Sugar Corporation of Uganda Ltd (SCOUL) at Lugazi, a third one was set up by government, at Kinyara in western Uganda and has since been privatized. 

Cogeneration facility at Kakira Sugar Works

While these factories are connected to the grid, they use much of their bagasse for internal power cogeneration to self-sufficiency. Currently, the older two plants at Jinja and Lugazi generate electricity surplus to their internal needs for sale to the grid, limited though it may be. They also use some furnace oil for superheating steam.

Tobacco has been grown in the country for long, and British American Tobacco (BAT) setup a plant in Kampala from pre-independence times for manufacture of cigarettes, although this is no longer in use. 

Besides drying in direct sunlight, tobacco consumes a lot of biomass for processing and eventually furnace oil for heating in built-up areas. There is also great dependence on electricity for processing, handling and packaging in general. 

Much of Uganda’s diet includes cereals across the country. These include maize and millet. These are ground with mills, some at large scale using grid electricity, while the bulk of the rural ones off-grid employ petrol or diesel generators. 

A number of large scale grain processing plants exist, especially for wheat, but also maize to a lesser extent. The mills, handling / conveyance and packaging use electricity. Save for the smaller grain mills in areas off the grid, mains electricity is predominantly used. 

Edible oil
In the past, there used to be a lot of cotton seed oil produced, although vegetable oils are increasing in share, if not dominant. 

There are a few large scale operators in the edible oil industry. Most prominent is Bidco Uganda Ltd, a commercial integrated producer of palm oil products, with large plantations on islands on Lake Nalubaale known as Kalangala, previously going by the names of Ssese Islands.

A Bidco facility in environs of palm oil plantation

1.5 MW biodiesel power plant
A key feature is the Bugala Power Station is a 1.5 MW biodiesel-fired thermal power plant serviced by 16,000 acre (6,500 hectares) palm oil plantation.

The process-generated heat produces the steam that drives the power plant for the electricity generation.

Bidco Uganda range of products

Dairy industry
Uganda has a sizeable livestock industry, stretching from ranching, through grazing nomadic practices  to dairy farming. Way back in the sixties, Uganda once had a vibrant fresh meat processing and exporting industry in Soroti, to the east of the country. This however did not stand the test of time, in part attributed to depletion of supply stocks in the supplying region.

The dairy industry has however been around and grown over time, largely in the private sector, given that the government-owned facility – Dairy Corporation – was divested.

There are a number of milk collecting centres, some with cooling facilities that serve as intermediaries for supply to processing and packaging industries both within and outside Kampala the capital.

The cooling plants are run on electricity, and the processing industries predominantly use grid electricity. Delivery trucks/tankers shuttle between collecting centers and processing plants.

Steel industry
While consumption is estimated at 150,000 tonnes/annum, combined internal production is placed at 60,000 tonnes/annum. Uganda has modest reserves of iron ore especially to the south-west, but its exploitation is dogged by a number of factors, including but not limited to difficult access due to terrain and lack of rail access, and, difficulties of getting coking coal material.

Jinja, the center for hydro-electricity generation in the country, is home to two steel melting companies, both employing electric arc furnaces. Given the through the roof tariffs for electricity, these companies are facing a tough time competing with cheap imports, threatening their existence.

Given the rather limited supply potential and expansion for hydropower generation against a demand that is growing fast, melting scrap is a venture in the country facing tremendous challenges. Scrap is collected across the country and transported on trucks, grid supply that has often proved to be a challenge, low production levels plus a poorly developed end-product distribution network all add to the not so bright a picture.
Another two facilities are worth mentioning here, that is, a steel rolling mill in Mbarara, and Roofings, a producer of finished forms for the market here and in the region.

We may represent the group of companies with the following key players:
  • East African Steel: the original company, using an electric-arc furnace to melt scrap;
  • Steel Rolling: the newer electric-arc furnace operator, belonging to Alam Group of companies;
  • Sembule/Shelter: making constructional forms, subsidiary(ies) to Sembule Group of Companies;
  • BM Group: based in Mbarara, making construction products, with expansion plans;
  • Roofings: making construction forms, more recently established, on outskirts of Kampala towards Entebbe Airport;
  • Tororo Steel Works: for construction products, a subsidiary of Tororo Cement; and,
  • Tembo Steels: making construction products, located mid-way en route to Jinja, to mention but a few.
There are a number of other iron and steel ventures albeit small, largely involved in production of finished forms, mostly for the construction industry. 

All in all, we can say that the primary forms of energy employed in the names of oil and electricity are posing big challenges to the growth let alone survival against imports in general. 

Cement industry
One of Uganda’s endowments is limestone, a primary material for construction industry products. Two large plants exist, with one at Tororo to the east established earlier, and later on, Hima to the west of the country. These were originally established under government, but, later divested to private sector operators.

Hima Cement Ltd
Producing 850,000 metric tonnes annually, it serves the five present members of the East African Community – Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi, and also the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Southern Sudan. 

Our main interest in Hima, is its adoption of using agricultural waste in the region to substitute furnace oil that is presently imported at great cost. 

From Uganda’s big-time foreign exchange earner coffee, the skin waste in terms of husks has been adopted to substitute furnace oil, achieving a volumetric saving of up to 30-percent in traditional fuel use.

View of Hima Cement Plant

Tororo Cement Ltd
Established in 1952, it has diversified to producing galvanized iron, steel bars and nails on top of the major product in the name of cement.

With an estimated 1,000,000 metric tonnes of cement annually, this industry continues to use furnace oil for the manufacturing process.

This plant also serves the same countries across eastern Africa and extending to Congo and South Sudan as the plant at Hima. 

These plants also rely on grid electricity, beside furnace oil, and in the case of Hima, coffee husks.

Fish industry
Fishing activity goes back to the times of our grandfathers. With the many water endowments, there used to be micro-level fishing from time immemorial to present day, where canoes are used on large waters as Lakes Nalubaale, Kyoga, Albert and a host of others.

More recently, there has been a build-up larger scale activities, with many fishermen selling their catch to small processors for export, especially of the 'nile perch' fish.

Many canoes continue to be driven by human muscle power, others use small outboard engines. The processors use electricity, grid where accessible and available, or resort to generators. Trucks that transport the fish to Entebbe Airport for export have on-board refrigeration units, run on petroleum products. Cold storage is also being developed at the airport(s), using electricity, grid when available.

Uganda was endowed with good forest cover, much tropical, but has been depleting due to over-exploitation without due regeneration efforts.

A number of timber mills have often existed inside big forests, processing timber for local and export markets. Such mills are invariably powered off diesel generators as locations tend to be far from grids, although some are located in areas with grid access.

There are also hundreds of small wood and furniture workshops across the country, largely powered off mains electricity where available, otherwise thermal powered, although to a limited extent due to prohibitive petroleum product prices.

Estimates once put rich forest vegetation at 4.9 million hectares, although this may be compromised at the present time.

Tags:  coffee, cotton, tea, sugar, tobacco, cereals, nuts, edible oil, copper, dairy industry, biodiesel, cogeneration, coffee husks, fish, timber