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Uganda’s progress on Energy for Rural Transformation (ERT)

Hilary Onek,
Minister of Energy
21 August 2009 – Uganda’s Minister of Energy, Hilary Onek opened a workshop convened by the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) to brief members of parliament about the progress of the Energy for Rural Transformation (ERT).  He said the work that remains to be done about generation, distribution and transmission remain huge and resources remain inadequate and a major hitch.

According to Minister Onek, $300m is needed in the medium term to extend electricity in all the trading centers across the country and they have insisted that consumers need prepaid meters to manage their consumption.  He also assured the country that tariffs will not increase under his tenure.

REA is looking to extend electricity coverage to the rural countryside by upto 10% by 2012 up from just 1% in 2001.

The challenge that go with this is whether electricity is affordable and is convenient to consumers," noted Onek.

But it also means the plan to have electricity for all by 2035 remains a fairly distant dream from a hugely expectant population. Currently rural access to electricity is about 6%.

The second phase of the Energy for Rural Transformation (ERT two) needs about $100m for the four year project.

REA is seeking parliamentary approval for the $75 million loan that the World Bank has agreed to extend to Uganda.

The Entebbe workshop hosted members of parliament from the committee on national economy and the committee on natural resources.

The parliamentary committees are now expected to write a report and then present it to the plenary session. It is at plenary that the fate of the loan will be decided in a few weeks.

The chairperson of the natural resources committee, Winifred Masiko praised the objectives of the project but said the pace of the project implementation should be faster.

"But I think there should be one coordination centre which is strong and has competent personnel," said Masiko. She also said the project needs more money. Masiko said the REA loan issue is already on the agenda of parliament.

According to the ministry of energy and mineral development permanent secretary Kabagambe Kaliisa, the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) has agreed to provide a $9m grant.

The second phase of the ERT project will cut across several ministries by providing funding in several sectors. For instance, solar panels will be provided to health centers that have maternity wards.

"An estimated 95,000 people are expected to benefit from improved pumped water supply systems installed with the project’s packages investments under ERT two," said engineer Moses Murengenzi, who spoke for the permanent secretary.

The first phase of the energy for rural transformation took seven years. The final third phase is also expected to last four years.