Friday, July 26, 2013

Energy Need Patterns for Uganda

Historical features
Uganda, with the approximate size of United Kingdom has had a rapidly growing population with one of the biggest reservoirs of fresh water to its south, named Lake Victoria by explorers, but originally known as Nalubaale by the indigenous Ganda ethnic group.

A plateau some 4,000 feet or so above sea level, Uganda was once covered by a dense rain forest around Lake Nalubaale, with frequent rains. Over several years of cultivation, this was to be no more.

The peoples
The Bantu speaking people came to occupy much of sub-Saharan Africa, practicing agriculture, hunting  and keeping a few animals such as goats and chicken, reportedly upgrading to cattle keeping by 400 BC. At the onset of their arrival, they displaced small groups of hunters, who moved to higher less-accessible altitudes, largely to be found around Mountain Rwenzori to the west and Elgon to the East.

In early AD years, they indulged in smelting for medium grade carbon steel, having taken on the trade from Western Tanzania.

The Bantu-speaking agriculturalists took on cultivation of bananas. The Nilotics were largely pastoralists moving about to find pasture for their cattle.

While the Bantu had organized kingdoms, the leadership of the Nilotics was largely kinship oriented, with elders taking the decisions.

Regional groups
History talks of the Bantu and Nilotics originally, diversifying into the pastoral Chwezi around 13th and 15th centuries, with sites at Bigo and Mubende later to become ancestors of modern Hima or Tutsi pastoralists of Rwanda and Burundi.

The Chwezi were later to be displaced by Nilotic-speaking pastorist Bito, moving south into present day Uganda to establish kingdoms in northwestern Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.

Emerging lifestyle and implied energy needs
As our interest is in energy, a number of lifestyles that characterize it include:

  • Agricultural practices, of a small scale nature;
  • Cattle keeping, largely of a pastoral nature;
  • Domestic keeping of chicken and animals such as goats and some cattle to a limited extent; and,
  • Smelting sponge iron / carbon steels.

Early uses of energy
With the discovery of lighting fires, people moved on to enjoy the benefit of cooking, roasting meat, keeping warm especially during cold nights to lighting.

Evidence of use of energy for heating is probably best found in the smelting of iron as cited above in the region.

Local communities are known to have made clay pots that were used to cook on three-stone firewood setups.

Main energy sources
Uganda continues to heavily depend on biomass, with 97 percent of the entire population using firewood, charcoal and crop residues, of the estimated 11 million tonnes of oil equivalent (TOE)  as late as 2010. This constitutes 90 percent of total energy consumption.

Electricity on the other hand accounts for only 1.1 percent at an estimated 121,000 TOE.

Lastly, petroleum products are mostly used for transport and thermal energy generation, a recent development, accounting for some 8.9 percent.

The distribution of primary energy sources points to very low levels of industrialization, given that where it is vibrant, human consumption in terms of firewood, charcoal and crop residues would not add up to a colossal 90-percent of total national consumption.

That the population largely rural in a relatively poor country state uses biomass to that extent is another telling indicator as to the lack of access to m=relatively modern domestic energy forms.

All this points to a situation that has not advanced adequately with the times, considering that Uganda was competing with countries in the Far East in the early colonial times, when we exported agricultural produce, yielding good returns, permitting imports with ease, and, maintaining an attractive positive balance of payments. 

Firewood and crop residues
The use of these biomass forms have not been taken to sufficiently well-developed exploitation techniques since the times of our grandfathers. It is probably reasonably evident that such practices continue to render methods in use by and large ancient, to say the least.

This is mostly consumed by the urban middle and upper classes, the group of the elite by and large. Tragically, many continue to use basic non-efficient stoves, although clay-lined more efficient ones are gaining popularity, thanks to the efforts of government, support of bilateral partners and donors in general and probably above all, the growing number of artisans in making them and distributing them to users.

We will later demonstrate that, Uganda had its first hydro-power station constructed way back in the fifties. This targeted exports to Kenya to power its bigger industrial demands, in addition to local demand, maintaining a surplus for several years.

Through the seventies, Idi Amin was in charge, bringing to near-none performance or better still decline of industrial production. The electricity sector, all then under the then Uganda Electricity Board (UEB) suffered neglect, with poor maintenance, hardly any growth in infrastructure, but with growing demand.

Demand continued to grow, with more users having power made available to them, while at the same time demands for exports kept growing as well, adding sections of Rwanda, although at some point we export to Rwanda in Kisoro and import instead in the Katuna area for purposes of which country had a grid supply in the neighborhood. 

In the not so distant past, Uganda started running into a situation where electricity alone was unable to sustain its grid demand, small though it is as we will later show. This brought about the introduction of thermal generation, something unheard of in preceding decades since the construction of the Owen Falls Power Station (OFPS) at the Source of River Nile in Jinja.

With the coming on stream of more hydropower generation, the need for thermal top-up varies, to the extent that at times, load-shedding is suspended, a feature likely to keep recurring, depending on total generation versus total demand.

Petroleum products

While these were mainly a feature of transport, they have of late come to provide fuel for thermal generation, with varying degrees of diesel and heavy fuel in content.

The transport sector however continues to depend heavily on trucking and relatively smaller passenger volume modes, given that much of the rail network is in dire need of revamping and re-activation.

Not only are we using higher fuel per passenger or tonne of cargo, we have an increasing number of older hence less-fuel-efficient vehicles in use. This phenomenon is likely to persist for a while, although governments are levying higher taxes for older vehicles, and, contemplate banning of import of vehicles older than some four years or so.

The bus networks are predominantly in private hands, with smaller fleets, although there have been and continue to be efforts to get formal bus systems in place, in particular in some urban areas like the capital city of Kampala.  

Tags: Uganda, Kampala, Bantu, Nilotics, Bigo, Chwezi, Hima, Hutu, biomass, firewood, charcoal, electricity, petroleum products, 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Energy - A Growing Facet in Uganda

The world over, the position of matters relating to energy has gained prominence. The growth of industry is not only heavily dependent on the availability of energy, but now lays great emphasis on primary source, quality of generation, extent of emissions and their impact on the environment, and, cost of access, beside a host of other considerations.

Uganda / Eastern Africa in Focus
From a global perspective, one needs to come down to individual countries. Many writers have taken interest in different states across the world, and I believe, our challenge or my personal feeling is that, Uganda and possibly the East African region in the long run have not yet received the attention they deserve

Consideration of Some of the cardinal motivations and considerations may be summed up as:
  • Energy is an important parameter in everyday life 
  • Global warming is a concern that requires urgent redress
  • Africa has not kept pace with many energy development issues
  • Africa continues to use heavy energy polluting forms 
  • Deforestation is increasing across the African continent with little redress
  • Afforestation programs need to be adopted / strengthened
  • Populations continue to grow at fast rates, putting more pressure on energy resources in use
  • Women are increasingly spending more time in search of firewood and water
  • Land productivity is continually undermined by poor energy practices
  • Need to adopt better energy practices
  • Awareness of energy issues remains low in region
  • Dissemination of energy knowledge and good practices lacking
  • Modern information channels limited in region
  • Create a forum for discussion in region and globally
  • Sensitize stakeholders on important issues 
  • Some information on what others in the world are doing is likely to spur action
  • Advocacy for energy sector development
We will aim to take the following approach:
  • Provide a background to the East African region, with Uganda in focus;
  • Get a close look at the energy needs of the communities;
  • Segregate rural where the bulk of the population lives, urban patterns, government, commercial, and industrial, and, examine practices over the centuries;
  • Look at special groups / categories where appropriate;
  • Highlight some aspects of Government policy framework and actions to promote the sector;
  • Look at potential roles of private sector (PS) players;
  • Propose interface between Governments and PS stakeholders;
  • Survey markets of energy equipments and other products;
  • Evaluate performance of technologies on market;
  • Prepare critiques of product profiles ;
  • Disseminate information on service providers in marketplace;
  • Disseminate information of potential products sponsored by local stakeholders and manufacturers locally and from beyond our borders; and,
  • Create a forum for stakeholder and general public discussion and dialogue.
Geographic boundaries
Uganda Flag
Uganda Population: 27,269,482
Age structure: 0-14 years 50.1%, 15-64 years 47.6%, 65 years and above 2.2%.
Median age:  14.97 years,14.87 male and15.08 years female
Population growth rate: 3.31%
Birth rate: 47.39 births/1,000 population
Death rate: 12.8 deaths/1,00 population
Fertility rate:  6.74 children born/woman

Uganda is a landlocked country within East Africa, largely bordered by Kenya to the East, Tanzania to the South, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to the West and Republic of Southern Sudan to the North. To its South-West, it has a small boundary with the Republic of Rwanda.

Map of Uganda

Source:  Google Maps -

Member of the East African Community (EAC)
In the recent past, the composition of EAC membership expanded to include Rwanda and Burundi to what was part of the defunct EAC in the seventies, of then Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

Map of East Africa

Source: Google Maps – East Africa Map with Capitals -

The five members have a lot in common - the people, largely Bantu and Nilotic, the weather, vegetation, close cultures and lifestyles, to mention but a few.


Ascending from ocean to plateau
With Kenya and Tanzania having large coastlines to their East on the Indian Ocean, topography rises toward Uganda where a plateau at some 4,000 feet above sea-level exists, with a mix of the rift valley through most of the EAC states, mountains like Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Rwenzori mostly in Uganda but also partly in Democratic Republic of Congo.
Waters of Lake Victoria, also originally named as Nalubaale by the indigenous Ganda ethnic group, are shared between the original EAC states of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, with the source of the River Nile at Jinja in Uganda. There are also a number of other lakes, like Kyoga, in the middle of Uganda.
River Nile winds through Uganda prior to exit to Southern Sudan. Later on, it is joined by waters from the mountainous regions of Ethiopia, both merging in Sudan prior to flowing through Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea.
Land areas
Huge disparities in size exist, with Kenya and Tanzania much bigger by far than Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.
In tropics
With the equator crossing through Kenya and Uganda, these countries are to be found in the tropics, largely providing for very friendly weather in most of the areas. 
This is not to say that extremes do not exist however. The disparities reach extremes, as we briefly mention below.

By Indian Ocean
Along the coastal areas, it can be quite discomforting with both high temperatures and humidity. Dar-es-Salaam, in Tanzania and Mombasa in Kenya are cases in point of the exhausting weather, especially during hot seasons.
Mountainous areas
On the tops of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Rwenzori, there are snowcaps. I recall one frequent experience on flights by the Kilimanjaro area where the snowcapped top stands above the clouds and can be seen for sometime on such flights as from Dar es Salaam to Entebbe in Uganda! It is such an outstanding view so close to the Equator! 
In much of East Africa, we largely talk of wet and dry seasons, not winter through summer. This largely explains the prevalence of tropical architecture tendencies, with ample provision for natural ventilation and little consideration for heating.
Patterns of lifestyle
The EAC region has a mix of agriculture, pastoral and nomadic practices by the vast majority of the populations of the countries in question. Levels of industrial activity are small, with Kenya enjoying the highest manufacturing sector and commercial agriculture.
Animal grazing
In much of Kenya and Tanzania, many ethnic groups graze cattle as their main lifetime engagement. Good examples are to be found in the Masaai in Kenya and Tanzania, and the likes of the people of Ankole in Western Uganda.
Energy characteristics in EAC 
It would not be far-fetched to say that the peoples in the region have very similar patterns in cooking and lighting, two areas where much of the populations need energy.
Transport industry is little developed, depending largely on trucking, given the low levels of operation of railway network, the decline of which was precipitated by the dissolution of the first EAC in the seventies.
The existing rail network was largely powered by diesel locomotives, with traces of steam engines that seemed to be more in use for shunting around stations.
Buses have by and large assumed the dominant mode for long distance travel, both intra-state and across nations. This service is probably more organized in both Kenya and Tanzania, while private sector companies dominate the business in Uganda, each with modest fleet numbers.
Home heating
The relatively friendly weather has meant that the burden of home-heating is near-non-existent, save for some houses mostly in high altitude areas, largely with fireplaces.
Nature of industries
Industries are largely to be found in agricultural processing for traditional crops such as tea, coffee, sugar and grain milling. Many in industries like tea processing continue to use biomass and oil largely. Others like coffee processing largely use electricity from the grid, while grain milling is increasingly powered from the grid since the escalation of fuel prices that used to be for generators. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Energy is a priority item on the global agenda

Energy has become an increasingly important subject in the global perspective today. A number of considerations come into play, some of which are, increasing levels of pollution in the atmosphere, rising ambient temperatures across the world as a result of carbon dioxide and other emissions, growing manufacturing that is responsible for the pollution, the search for better methods of raising useful energy outputs per unit of primary energy, desire to cut down on use of traditional sources of energy that cause high levels of pollution, increasing use of renewable energies that are more environment friendly, and reverting to more energy efficient lifestyles beside a host of other considerations.

explosion in consumption


Old though this chart/graph is, it is instructive in showing the ‘explosion in consumption’ from the 1940s or thereabout.

As to the fuels used, the 2004 chart by British Petroleum of 2004 is instructive:

We can see that Africa in particular had, and, seems to continue to be a very small consumer of the primary sources in question – oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear energy and hydropower.

A more recent picture up to 2010 from the Wikipedia encyclopedia shows a continued growth pattern, especially in Asia and Oceania, with big consumers including China and India, see graphs below:

Source: Wikipedia - World primary energy consumption in quadrillion Btu by region.svg

World outlook
Starting with the seventies, oil prices started to rise sharply. Being a major resource for energy in the world then, many users felt the need for finding redress in order to remain competitive and make products that could keep a meaningful share in the marketplace.

The quest for energy efficiency became more relevant, resulting in more opportunities for manufacturing concerns to seek services of providers. Many companies sought improvements with relatively short ‘payback periods’. This led to the adoption of internal personnel dedicated to seeking energy savings before resorting to experts for more detailed reviews. Financial institutions were brought on board, funding improvements to the benefit of all parties.

Alongside the above developments, efforts at exploiting renewable sources of energy were beefed up. Coal and oil have been dominant resources, but, with higher pollution to the environment. As such, the ever-abundant sunshine and wind for instance caught the sight of researchers in the quest for enhancing their share in the energy mix.

In parallel, new technologies are constantly sought where greater energy efficiency is achieved or more environment friendly resources are used.

Saving the environment
Worldwide, greenhouse gas emissions have increased significantly, with a 70 percent increase between 1970 and 2004. The picture for fossil fuels alone is represented by the following line-graph:

Global Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil-fuels 1990-2008
Source: Boden, T.A., G. Marland, and R.J. Andres (2010). Global, Regional, and National Fossil-Fuel CO2 Emissions. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, Tenn., U.S.A. doi 10.3334/CDIAC/00001_V2010.

Realizing the growing rate at which the environment is threatened, the world community is busy devising strategies to cut on pollution so that the world can be habitable for future generations.

Such international forums as the United Nations have put in place entities to work toward the realization of these noble objectives.

Efforts in developed countries
Many advanced countries have dedicated many efforts toward these causes. These have been across the entire spectrum. To mention a few, many such countries have been at the forefront of developing exploitation of renewable energies, improving efficiency across the board, evolving technological innovations and the like.

Creating a conducive framework
In facilitating the growth of efforts toward a safer environment, a number of schemes have been applied. These incentives include tax waivers, subsidies and like drives.
A very interesting one is one where a private generator for renewable energy is allowed to sell to the electricity grid at a tariff that ensures that they do not make a loss, even when such a tariff is above the normally set rate. That way, entrepreneurs are encouraged to continue to spearhead their efforts at tapping renewable energies to higher levels.

Consequences to date
The overall effect is very pleasing in several aspects. One, the once down-played renewable energies are now assuming center-stage in energy contribution.

Wind and solar resources have moved from small-time resources with negligible contribution to significant shares in the energy mix.

Many countries have set ambitious targets for the share of renewable in the energy mix. Germany has been quite ambitious and resolute, with a significant impact. United States of America (US) has seen big reductions in growth of carbon dioxide emissions, thanks to the government and private sector efforts.

Despite China remaining a significant generator of carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere, it is also amongst the leading countries in exploiting wind and solar.

As a result of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, it has one of the most significant incentive programs for solar adoption that are changing its ranking dramatically, starting with Tokyo.

Situation of less developed countries
It ought to be said that, the situation prevailing in that group of countries is a largely mixed one. In general, there has been less development versus increased consumption in general. We will briefly talk about a few of the pertinent issues.

Economies tend to be growing at much lower rates if at all, especially in these financially troubled times. Many of their industries are vested with old technologies, often rendering them uncompetitive. Much of the industry adds little value, with several exports as unprocessed or semi-processed agricultural products.

Many primary energy sources are the conventional forms of petroleum products and/or coal, even for processes for which the more developed countries are using more efficient technologies or other resources. On the other hand, several poor countries continue to predominantly use biomass, mostly for cooking. This is by the majority of the populations, to be found in rural areas, and, Uganda is not an exception.

While many developed countries have renewable energies contributing handsomely to grid electricity, a number of poorer countries continue to generate electricity using petroleum products.

These countries have on average higher population growth rates, putting more pressure on the resources available.

Despite the existence of several business development obstacles, incentives to the energy sector are limited or hard to get at times.

Need to address needs of energy sector
Judging from the above, there is indeed to seek ways and means of getting the poorer countries to strive to emulate the rest of the world on this important subject.

One way to start is through addressing an urgent need to start raising the consciousness of the communities in the less developed world about the need for energy matters.

There ought also to be some comparative analysis on the different activities, and, proposing strategies that can move us to higher levels of modern energy practices.

It is against such a background that this blog is initiated.

Check out our other forum
Apart from this effort on home ground, we are also blogging at and we invite you to see some of our efforts there.