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

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Small Industry Commercial Uses of Energy in Uganda


Not only is firewood and charcoal used in homesteads, there is extensive use of these forms in small scale industry operations. These contribute to further depletion of wood stocks and vegetation cover in general, beside degrading the environment and contributing to ill-health and deaths. All in all, firewood and charcoal are the dominant forms in use.

Categories of users vary widely, including bakers, construction industry, small hotels and other eating places, and, schools along with other institutions.

While there exist modern bakeries in the country, there are many more relatively small bakeries in various towns and urban centers. 

Modern bakeries
The modern ones, largely to be found in Kampala, produce a wide range of products – bread and all categories of cakes. Routinely, each of these modern bakeries will produce a small range of products on a market-demand basis. 

They also attend to special orders for functions such as baptisms, weddings and the like. During festive seasons, they diversify their product range to suit customer tastes for the occasion.

While these largely opt for electricity, a number also employ other forms of energy. The rapidly increasing tariffs for electricity may change this status-quo with time.

Smaller bakeries 
The bulk of these predominantly bake bread in standard sizes, supplemented by largely burns, and to a lesser extent deal in only cake business at a near-cottage level.

Invariably, these use firewood. They usually have in-house search-and-delivery arrangements for the firewood. They many times send out their trucks to but firewood, either pre-arranged through their internal efforts or, buying from bulk vendors in the countryside.

Construction industry
Lime is an important input in the construction industry, as well as other industries, such as paint manufacturers.

The supplying lime kilns are largely to be found close to primary lime sites. These are responsible for depletion of large wood cover, the primary source of firewood that is used in Uganda for lack of coal.

There have been cries as to the depletion of forest cover, dating back to the early 2000 years in the Tororo district in eastern Uganda.

These activities are indeed commercial, with possible dangerous and serious environmental implications, already prevailing, especially in absence of enforcing reforestation programs across the country.

Small hotels and other eating places
Many small hotels and eating businesses depend almost entirely on charcoal and firewood for cooking. Electricity is mostly used for lighting, yet where unavailable on grid or with gasoline generators, lanterns are in use. 

As mentioned hereinafter, charcoal is a popular substitute to firewood use in urban and peri-urban areas of Uganda, especially for these small hotels and restaurants, helping to limit the pollution that could result from the firewood smoke.

Changing economic times have increased pressure on these naturally available resources as substitutes put big demands on limited financial resources, ending up worsening the deforestation trend.

Schools along with other institutions
Most schools across the country cook with firewood. The incidence of improved commercial firewood stoves is still limited, but growing.

Many times, it is likely to be ignorance as to the benefits of improved cooking methods, given their relative startup costs, yet yielding huge savings in consumption, and not easily seen, lesser pollution potential in general.

Production and distribution of charcoal
This group comprises of charcoal burning kilns, wood cutters, bicycle transporters, road-side sellers, truck deliveries, and, numerous private modes of delivery.

Charcoal burning kilns
We have indicated that much of the charcoal is used domestically for cooking, mostly in urban and peri-urban areas.

Charcoal kilns on the whole remain quite rudimentary, with piles of wood covered with mud, and dismantled completely after every burn session. A small fire is started through a small access at base, to be plugged to deter air entry once lit.

Wood cutters
The selling of firewood is a fairly big business in the country, driven by demand from the commercial users. These include bread bakeries, and lime kiln operators. 

This group is perpetuated by the demand, even when the scarcity implies they have to deeper out in search for the wood in order have a product to sell as a means of earning a living. This vicious cycle can be seen to be responsible for the rapid deforestation. 

Bicycle transporters
These have been around for several years, often starting with a number of sacks packed at kiln sites, to towns or wherever the demand may be.

Although motor-bike transport has risen significantly over the past decade, they seem to be used more for transporting people with their limited baggage, although carrying of charcoal is not ruled out.

Road-side sellers
This category is to be found on highways and other roads where traffic to the urban centers is significant.

They place their packed sacks in the open usually or under makeshift shades for passers-by to stop and procure for onward delivery to homes. 

Many of these vehicles are private, others belong to government and other organizations. It is common to see especially double-cabin pickups from upcountry carrying a few sacks of charcoal.

It is not unusual to find a housewife or other family member busy with domestic chores around the home, turn up to sell to an interested passer-by buyer in a vehicle.

Truck deliveries
In this instance, small lorries of say 1 – 5 tons, through to much larger ones go out to procure charcoal in bulk, almost always packed in sacks. This seems to suggest that often, the charcoal is destined to homestead consumers through last-in-line outlet vendors in markets or charcoal kiosks that are on the increase in urban centers.

These can sometimes procure a full kiln or where not sufficient or easily available, pick the roadside sacks. 

This is a big business by small to medium trader standards, given that there is overwhelming dependence on biomass in Uganda.

Private modes of delivery
These can be numerous. Often, a medium income family may own a 100 – 500 kg small pickup truck, used to go out to a farm that may be some 10 – 20 miles away, returning with food provisions from the garden, along with some charcoal. This however is on the decline, given the prohibitive cost of gasoline, or the lower incidence of such practices. This is also attributable to increasing pressure on land or lesser financial means to have and maintain such a farm.

Many small car owners are often seen with sacks of charcoal overhanging in boots on their return from upcountry.

The cost of the bag is understandably lower upcountry, given that all the intermediaries – transporters and vendors – are not included. At the same time, one is probably driving back from a totally different mission, thereby reducing part of the cost for the journey.

Efforts at improving efficiency
Government with the support of the donor community has come up with an effort to improve performance in the sector.

These efforts have been various and have been on-going for several years now.

The usual objectives are or should be around the following:
  • Achieving better efficiency: improved end-user technologies;
  • Preserving wood and vegetation  cover: encouraging tree planting and seeking alternate sources;
  • Training of stakeholders: primary producers and end-users;
  • Training of trainers: seeking to get the multiplier effect;
  • Production of model technologies: funding and logistically locating desirable technologies;
  • Dissemination of improved technologies: encouraging users to adopt better practices;
  • Dissemination of success stories: Getting other users to know about good achievements secured;
  • Introduction of efficiency standards: writing and seeking to get into national law statutes good design and regulatory practices, and, discouraging substandard product entry into market;
  • Rollout strategies: aiming to keep the general public interested in keeping on using or changing to improvements for the better, beside others. 
Current Situation 
At the time of writing this article, many things have taken place. These range from government continued plans to advance the sector activities, work achievements partly with a fully by donors, primary energy source dynamics, state of vegetation cover – growth or loss of it, and a host of others.

Many projects have been carried out in the biomass sub-sector, some recent, some older. There are also on-going ones, all with a view to streamline the growth of the sector, and, set it on a sustainable growth path.

The overall picture is in spite of these efforts, forest and vegetation cover is on the decline. The growing population is exerting more pressure on land, firewood is getting increasingly harvested despite its shrinking supplies, people’s purchasing power is falling, thereby leaving no choice but to remain on locally available scanty supplies of wood and charcoal.

Improved technologies are slowly penetrating beneficiary communities, keeping prospect of reducing the carbon footprint of the sub-sector bleak.

All in all, indications are that the challenge to close the gap between aspirations and reality seems to be growing in the short run. This makes the need for urgent reforms absolutely necessary if we are to avert the looming dangerous situation.

Keywords: firewood, charcoal, bakeries, charcoal kilns, lime kilns 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Energy Patterns for Urban Uganda

Like many other countries, there is a noticeable migration to urban areas in Uganda. With the relatively hard economic times, many aspire to opportunities and higher living standards, only to end up in slums, with many shortcomings.

Urban migration
The case of energy therefore for many in the urban setting is really difficult to classify as an improvement on the rural one for the many drifting from there without a good prospect of finding employment.

Rural towns
Save for a number of towns that can be classified as ranking high, next to the City of Kampala, we have many small towns that invariably range from having one to a few streets. These also are often located along what we classify as main roads, some on highways on trunk roads, others on feeder roads, and in some instances on what we term as Community Access Roads (CAR). 

For the most remote and often least developed towns, we usually find a cluster of shops on either side of the road, often gravel and no access to electricity.

This dictates lighting to use of the paraffin lamps at best, although business tends to close early. Often times, the front constitutes the shop while the rear room is the residence.

More often than not, cooking is for largely food and tea, out in the open or inside a small kitchen shade at best, so to speak.

The rural towns will invariably use firewood for all the cooking.

Main towns
These fall between what I have chosen to classify as rural and below the most developed, Kampala, the main seat of government.

These major towns include Jinja to the east, Entebbe by Lake Nalubaale / Victoria lakeside, Mbarara to the mid-west, Mbale to the east, Masaka in the central region, Fort Portal to the west and not too far from Mt Rwenzori, to Gulu in the north, beside a host of others.

Although these major towns have access to the electricity grid, many residents largely use electricity for lighting and limited appliances. On average, many who live in the ‘central business district’ of the town will largely use charcoal for cooking, with natural gas and electricity at the lower extent respectively. The vast majority however, especially on the periphery will tend to use firewood for cooking. 

Capital City of Kampala
Kampala, the only urban centre to be elevated to district status, is for all intents and purposes the location of the highest standards in the country in general, energy matters inclusive.

It is here that you find the highest concentration of modern amenities, also representing a mix of energy sources and applications. One may with a degree of confidence say that highest standards are to be found here, only replicated in some other towns and settings in general.

Many businesses and homes have access to electricity, again largely used for lighting and lighter current  electrical appliances, with even fewer using it for cooking.

There is also a noticeable level of using bottled gas for cooking, which mode seems to be cheapest, compared to charcoal and electricity.

The poorer settings on the fringes of the city do invariably use firewood, although other categories also use it.

It is not uncommon to find a home with a cooker, rarely used, a gas stove more frequently used, and, a charcoal stove. If the home has a compound of its own, it may also have a firewood cooking facility, although not so common starting with middle echelons in society.

Cooking and other energy modes
As mentioned earlier, the vast majority of Ugandans depend on biomass and agricultural residues as the main source of energy. Although this has seriously depleted wood and other vegetation stocks, this dependence will continue to prevail for some foreseeable future, posing great challenges on times women dedicate to it, in addition to sometimes having to collect water from faraway places.

Firewood still used
This firewood question will linger on for a while, considering that populations have been multiplying fast amidst dwindling incomes, with the shilling losing value against other currencies.

The rural versus urban dependence on wood for cooking was 99.4-percent versus 22.9-percent, an average per capita consumption around 680 kilogram/year (kg/yr), based on findings of the 2005/06 Uganda National Household Survey. 

While improved wood-stoves are increasingly being adopted in institutions such as schools, and hospitals, their use still remains limited. These are sometimes custom-built at the institutions, sometimes with adapted pans, utilizing modest quantities of wood for the same task, while at the same time posing lesser pollutant hazards seemingly. These are often placed under a shade, often corrugated iron roofing without side walls, thereby improving on ventilation. These institutional stoves are used for big numbers, sometimes in hundreds if not more.

Prevalence of charcoal stove use
The rural versus urban dependence on charcoal for cooking was 8.2-percent versus 66.1-percent, an average per capita consumption around 21.6 kilogram/year (kg/yr), based on findings of the 2005/06 Uganda National Household Survey. 

These have been around for a number of decades. Largely made from sheet metal, they are cylindrical in design, with diameters of the order of one-foot, two chambers, the upper with a grill bottom to hold the charcoal and the lower solid to contain the ash dropping from the upper level. A small gate is added to facilitate lighting up and regulating air flow to a limited extent. They are also provided with three base supports and two handles on the sides.

These tend to lose a lot of heat to the surroundings, and, operating temperatures/conditions are not easily regulated. They can get pretty hot, often rusting away over the period of use.

Some are made of clay entirely, smaller, but handy, baked to red-color prior to use. The presence of a better insulated setting translates into better efficiency to some degree. These may be fragile, but, could easily be made to fill the gap of requiring metal, scrap or otherwise, with capacity to be much more easily made in rural settings.

These still outnumber the improved category below by far, a situation that may change with time.

Case of improved stoves
There have been various efforts to promote these improved stoves. Some of these are through bilateral assistance, and, donor projects, not to mention the growing number of Ugandan artisans who have picked up the trade. 

These are modifications of the stoves cited earlier, with a layer of clay added prior to baking, essentially improving efficiency through reducing heat loss to the environment. They are also more robust, given the outer sheet metal wall, and, often with a coat of paint.

Many designs are on the market, with very minor modifications from the technical standpoint. They are without doubt generally heavier, given both the clay and metal used in their fabrication.

Although their price is not prohibitive, lack of adequate disposable income is seen as a constraint to their acquisition viz-a-viz the unimproved ones, yet they are certainly greater value for money from many perspectives.

The government and many local entrepreneurs are mounting efforts to popularize these, with assistance from donors, bilateral and multilateral, both in the past and continuing.

Paraffin stoves
These have been around, starting with the pressurized ones that were on the market more in the last 30 – 50 years. These are increasingly getting replaced by ones using wicks, largely sourced from China.

The rural versus urban dependence on paraffin for cooking was 0.8-percent versus 3.5-percent, an average per capita consumption around 1.1 kilogram/year (kg/yr), based on findings of the 2005/06 Uganda National Household Survey. 

Paraffin stoves came into use with the arrival of petroleum products, largely to be found in more urban settings where access to paraffin is easier, although it is often carried to remote areas in twenty-liter cans, often of plastic.

The escalation of petroleum product prices has had a mitigating impact on their use, considering that it is largely used by the classes below the affluent yet above the very poor. 

Gas cookers
These have been espoused by many in middle and upper classes. Their wide variability eases acquisition at different levels. There are single burners mountable on small cylinders, while there are also several two-burner gas cookers. On the upper end, you find cookers with a mix of gas burners and electric coils or plates, some with an optional gas/electric oven.

Given the growing scarcity of charcoal that has driven its prices up significantly, cooking on gas seems to be the current most financially attractive option for those that could opt for electric cookers. 

Lately though, the number of users has been on the rise, with frequent price increases, in part due to international trends. This may change the situation, as the supply of charcoal and other competing energy forms may alter the status quo.

Electric cooking
In the earlier times, electricity prices were relatively low, on account of all of being hydro sourced, and, this favored the growth / prevalence of the electric stove / cooker for the upper classes.

In the last decade or so, Uganda has found itself unable to meet its growing demand from hydro, in part due to falling water levels in Lake Victoria, growing local consumer demand, slow increase of hydro generating facilities, and, continuing exports to neighboring countries, Kenya especially. This brought about the introduction of thermal generation, a matter that inevitably pushed up tariffs despite the often disputed subsidies.

Cooking on electricity is now on the decrease, largely on account of much higher cost, and, a host of other parameters.

While top echelon homes would use cookers with extensive facilities, many use twin-hotplates or single hotplates made by local artisans, often void of regulation. 

One of the tragedies has been the incidence of illegal consumption of electricity, facilitating its use for cooking and heating! Respective authorities have taken the bull by its horns, and made frantic efforts to cut on this illegal consumption, resulting in abandoning of some makeshift cooking using electricity.

Welding using electricity
This is an area where many in fabrication have depended excessively on welding over use of other techniques as using bolts and rivets. Much of this work for small artisans has probably been through illegally tapped electricity, a vice that continues to be seen despite efforts to stem it!

Small maize mills
These are variously scattered around the country, using electricity or diesel / gasoline. While many try to stay legal, a number still illegally tap electricity.

Those powered by diesel or less frequently by petrol are also available, only that the cost of power supplies appear prohibitive for the market settings most of them serve.

Lesser frequent technologies
These include biogas, solar, bio-fuels, and wind. I must say that, while some of these are still technologically and financially difficult to espouse, some are more easily adaptable.

On its part, biogas has not really caught on yet in the country. Yet, there have been many programs dating back several years when it was introduced to communities, large and small. I recall a project under the energy ministry where such facilities were installed at Makerere University and at a number of key schools. These seem to have come to no visible growth or expansion, given the training effort and the knowledge base that was created.

A number of donor agencies have continued to promote it, but, there is some momentum to be found in order to get people to adopt more of it.

A few homesteads have a zero-grazed cow, with its dung used to provide the cooking and lighting gas. This has to be promoted in some way, considering that even the most sophisticated and advanced countries like Germany have made a big success story out of it.

While the German experience is at a highly mechanized level, there are lots of small-scale examples to copy from similarly positioned countries like India and Philippines.

This technology is not only at our doorstep, it is also simple, relatively cheap and easy to implement, given the necessary commitment.

While this can target small applications in homes, it can really make a huge impact. Applications are largely in lighting, even bringing electricity to rural settings as grass-thatched huts, as has been applied in a number of countries.

Solar’s main undoing has been cost. Skills have become more abundantly available, and, local engineers and technicians have been in designs for varying functions to the taste of clients, often dictated by ability to pay.

On its part, government with donors have mounted various schemes with incentives to get people to adapt solar use in their settings.

Many companies have introduced schemes to put its acquisition on a soft landing. Packages include a number of lights with cell-phone charging, with optional TV operation, albeit at varying prices, depending on choice. They have also put in place financing schemes to get people started even without the entire sum for the schemes.

With further fall in international pricing, we should be able to see more in the off-grid areas pick up  

These can be largely started by the sugar companies, given the nature of their businesses. It is however becoming more widely spoken about, that there are many potential sources of biofuels. The constraints have largely been in lack of promoters as to seed money for projects to bring this to fruition.

Findings through investigations by government and other scholars put the rating of this low, save for a few areas like Karamoja and at elevated points like Kabale, near the Uganda-Rwanda-Congo border.

The islands of Kalangala in the middle of Lake Nalubaale / Victoria have also been seen as promising.

That wind technology has greatly advanced, and, it is not prudent to dismiss this potential vital source of energy.

Petroleum use

Petroleum use in energy mix
In 2011, the country consumed 23,000 bbl/d of petroleum products. Since Uganda is landlocked, it imports petroleum products via neighboring countries.

The discovery or more correctly the resumption of activity after the early finds of the thirties, have now cast the petroleum perspective to a new level. Development and exploitation of the resource will be discussed later separately, although its availability is still a few years away.

As the chart below shows, a small share for petroleum products is in the energy mix, with diesel in the lead at 4.3-percent, followed by gasoline at 1.9-percent largely for transport, all totaling less than 8-percent, with traces of liquefied petroleum gas as of 2008, see chart following:

Major uses
Transport in Uganda heavily depends on diesel for commercial vehicles largely and gasoline for cars and the multiplying motorcycle numbers littering the country. This is after the near-collapse of the railway system.

For much of the last decade, diesel and heavy fuel oil have been used for power generation, owing to the decline in hydro electric generation versus a constantly growing demand. This has lately subsided with the coming on line of the recently commissioned new 250-megawatt hydropower station at Bujagali, downstream of the old Nalubaale power station that has been in operation since the mid-fifties.

Kerosene, as shown above is also used by the lower level population, mostly for lighting, but also for cooking to a limited extent.

As for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), it is slowly gaining popularity in urban and peri-urban areas, especially in the big towns and Kampala City, on account of its being competitive to charcoal. Its consumption in the energy mix is below 1-percent, as shown in the chart above.

Keywords: Firewood, charcoal stove, improved stoves, paraffin stove, gas cookers, electric cookers, welding, maize mills, biogas, solar, wind

Monday, August 5, 2013

Rural Energy Patterns in Uganda

Energy needs may be classified on the basis of people’s occupation. We have looked at the lifestyles of some groups, with the following categories:

  • Small scale agrarian practices; 
  • Cattle keepers, to be distinguished from nomads;
  • Nomads in search of grass and water for grazing their animals; and,
  • Hunters, although this group also engages in other activities.

A typical rural homestead with garden in background
Source:  Google - Images for rural Uganda

Cottage farmers

There is a big band across the southern part of the country where many homesteads practice cottage farming. Although this is the mainstay, people can engage in other activities.

Key activities
In much of central region, one finds people indulging in small scale agriculture, growing bananas, sweet potatoes, cassava, yams, maize along with a host of other cereals, vegetables and fruits.

These communities also keep animals, such as goats and chicken, often in small numbers, unlike other categories, whose main occupation is looking after the animals.

Energy needs
Energy requirements are largely for cooking, drying cereals, coffee, cotton, vegetables, heating water for tea / coffee or plain drinking when piped is not available or is of doubtable quality.

3-stone stove: Over the centuries, the three-stone stove been in use, and continues to be used, especially in the more remote areas. This invariably uses firewood and agricultural residues.

3-Stone Firewood stove – preparing tea- Typical in Central Uganda

An improved firewood stove – a variant of the 3-stone stove

Source of pictures:

Charcoal stoves: In the higher income groups, the use of charcoal is to be found. While the improved charcoal stove is on the increase, it is my perceived view that it is still largely outnumbered by the unimproved one.

Improved Stoves - charcoal and firewood

Other modes: These include the use of gas, and to an even smaller extent, electric stoves / cookers. In the last 20 – 30 years, the use of hot plates was more dominant than conventional electric cookers. The commonest has been a single heating coil, designed for a conventional electric cooker, but fixed on small frame and directly connected to electricity mains supply via a 13 ampere plug without any heat regulator.

Roasting: Roasting is done for both meat, some preservation, and in some instances immediate consumption, without further need of cooking. In many instances are particularly common for chicken and meat for barbecues and for serving at parties, and largely at bars, in urban settings.

Utensils: Many decades to centuries ago, our forefathers used to cook in clay pots, made by local potters. While these may still be used, their prevalence has dropped significantly.

Open saucepans are much more common, although covered ones are also in use. The use of pressure cookers is also picking up, much more in the more urban settings, largely with the elite.

Many decades to centuries ago, our forefathers used to cook in clay pots, made by local potters. While these may still be used, their prevalence has dropped significantly.

Open saucepans are much more common, although covered ones are also in use. The use of pressure cookers is also picking up, much more in the more urban settings, largely with the elite.

Commercial agriculture
For a long time, Uganda has grown coffee, cotton, tea and tobacco mainly for export. These crops fall in different categories in terms of scale, processing, and hence, need for energy. 

The commercial activities will be separately looked at later.

Cattle keepers
Much of the remaining parts of Uganda engage in this activity to different degrees. In the greater proportion, many graze their cattle buy looking for pasture and water. While this is still the predominant mode to the north-eastern region of Karamoja, this changes in pattern to maintenance of animals over more abundantly available pastures around the year in the immediate neighborhood of Teso, to western Uganda in Ankole.

Long-horned Ankole cattle
Source: Google - Images for cattle keeping in Uganda -

There are now many more ranches and dairy farms particularly in Ankole, but also variously in Teso and other parts including central, Buganda.

Key activities
As mentioned, the predominant lifestyle is twofold – cattle keeping, and, farming for what became commercial crops in the names of bananas, locally known as ‘matooke’.

Ankole now produces much of the ‘matooke’ that feeds key urban centres as the capital, Kampala. These bananas are often grown on a commercial scale, although all the work is literally not mechanized.

Cereals, mostly in form of millet and sorghum are ground for subsequent cooking for food or use in preparation of beverages, local beer inclusive.

Energy needs
Energy requirements are limited to modest cooking, as communities are often on the move, drinking fresh milk and in some places blood drawn from the livestock, like in Karamoja. The meat, when eaten locally is cooked or probably more often roasted. 

The millet is the main staple food in much of the western, eastern and northern parts of Uganda. This is grown often on small scale, and, processed manually prior to ultimate consumption as cooked food, full of health and vitality.

3-stone stove: This method continues to be used with pots as previously sighted.
Charcoal stoves: These are also to be largely found within the more affluent groups.  
Other modes: These are very similar to those of cottage farmers, but in the higher echelons of society.
Roasting: Also, very similar to those of cottage farmers, but in the higher echelons of society.
Borne fires: These are also used to roast meat and foods, beside providing warmth for evening gatherings as a pass-time activity as sighted earlier.

Both clay pots and other saucepans are used.

In the traditionally drier areas with livestock, this practice thrived for many years. As we write, it continues in earnest. Much of Karamoja and sizeable communities within Ankole continue to search for pasture and water.

Karamoja community setting with cattle in background

Key activities
Again, life is twofold – cattle keeping, and, farming for domestic consumption largely. 

The people of Karamoja practice small scale farming, largely to meet their domestic needs – maize, vegetables and other crops.

Part of their diet includes fresh blood, drawn from vessels of livestock with an arrow, after which the opening is closed and the animal let loose.

Cereals, are ground for subsequent cooking for food or use in preparation of beverages, local beer inclusive.

Energy needs
Energy requirements are limited to modest cooking, as communities are often on the move, drinking fresh milk and in some places blood drawn from the livestock, like in Karamoja.

The meat may probably be roasted, if not taken raw.

The millet along with a few other items is cooked, using biomass.

3-stone stove: This method continues to be used with pots as previously sighted.
Charcoal stoves: This mode is much less frequently used.
Other modes: These are largely not in use.
Roasting: Roasting is done for both meat, some preservation, and in some instances immediate consumption, without further need of cooking. 
Borne fires: These are also used to roast meat and foods, beside providing warmth for evening gatherings as a pass-time activity. 

Both clay pots and other saucepans are used to some extent.

This is a centuries old practice that to some degree continues to be practiced in Uganda. It would not be correct to say that this practice is restricted to any particular one part of the country. What could be said though is that it becomes another activity or pass-time for many instead, but remains very much alive.

Member of Batwa community in Rwenzori region, with hunting bow and arrow
Source: Google – Images for hunting in Uganda

Key activities
These would overlap with other engagements for communities within which they are to be found or in the neighborhood.  

Energy needs
Again, these would overlap or coincide with those in the surroundings.

The meat may probably be roasted, if not taken raw. 

Again, millet or other cereal would most likely supplement the game meat, cooked, largely using biomass.

3-stone stove: This method continues to be used with pots as previously sighted.
Charcoal stoves: This mode is probably much less frequently used by hunters in general.
Roasting: Roasting is done for both meat, some preservation, and in some instances immediate consumption, without further need of cooking. 
Borne fires: These are also used to roast meat and foods, beside providing warmth for evening gatherings as a pass-time activity. 

Both clay pots and other saucepans are used to some extent.

Keywords: cattle-keepers, nomads, hunters, 3-stone stove, charcoal stove, improved charcoal stove, hot plate, roasting