Fresh drive to connect villages to electricity to save forests

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By Evelyn Muganga, Daily Monitor/NECJOGHA

Kampala, Uganda – The Rural Electrification Agency (REA) has announced a new drive to connect hundreds of villages across the country to electricity.

Over 700,000 households have so far been connected to electricity under the rural electrification project. The connections have been achieved through the construction of over 19,000km power distribution line in different parts of the country. They have increased power access rate from 1% in 2001 to 16% now. The national electricity connection rate stands at 28% now, according to the energy ministry.

The government wants to achieve universal electricity connection coverage by 2040 in a bid to save forests which are being cut to get energy sources like firewood and charcoal. According to a Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE) report titled ‘State of Uganda Forests 2016’, Uganda’s forest cover has shrunk from 24% of the total land area in 1990 to 9% in 2015. In terms of acreage a total of 3.05 million hectares were lost in a span of 25 years.

As part of efforts to realize the dream, REA is executing two interventions-the free electricity connection and subsidizing connections for Ugandans with government paying for all meters and service cables.

The government says it intends to realize 300,000 connections annually. According to the rural electrification body, 160,000 connections have already been achieved since the inception of the initiative last November.

The second intervention is dubbed bridging the demand-supply gap through the accelerated rural electrification program. Under this scheme, the government seeks to electrify 570 unserved sub-counties, including their headquarters and townships.

In addition, Uganda is also pursuing the grid intensification and densification project aimed at connecting areas with suppressed demand within existing national grid footprint.

This project targets the connection of underserved load centers and (load centres) with in a 2km footprint of the existing grid through transformer injections, expansion of low voltage reticulation network and short expansion of the medium voltage network. It also targets highly populated areas through municipalities, divisions, and busy trading centres nationwide.

The electrification agency is also facilitating evaluation of various small hydropower plants countrywide. Other projects the agency is implementing are at various levels of development with funds from world bank, African development fund, Islamic development in Africa.

The agency says it has also embarked on a drive to develop mini grids for areas that may never be connected to the national grid. It is developing solar power for such areas. The agency states that 50 solar projects are in pipeline.

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