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, 

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