Uganda’s energy solution lies in biogas-2012

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

Uganda’s energy solution lies in biogas-2012

High electricity tariffs and power shortage are the several problems Uganda is facing today. The demand for electricity is higher than the supply. Although the electricity supply increased from 250MW to 300MW since December 2011 when Mutundwe thermal plant resumed its operations, the national demand remains 450 MW, leaving a deficit of 150MW.

There is energy poverty in Uganda most especially at household level. This is evidenced by the low consumption levels of renewable energy sources like solar, thermal, geothermal, wind and others. Energy poverty has threatened conservation, social-economic development of Uganda’s economy.

When one talks of energy in Uganda, the immediate conception of many Ugandans is hydro electricity. However, this should be blamed on government that has not invested in other energy sources like biogas, solar, wind and others. The government focuses on hydro electricity as the most suitable solution to the energy crisis, having told and warned that the power will not be enough for the population.

Ugandans have the capacity to come out and utilize the abundant energy resources including Biogas energy. Every household has got wastes or manure that can be used to produce electricity. More so, there is a lot of garbage and waste around our city Kampala. That could ease the work for Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) of collecting and disposing the garbage, which has also wasted the tax payers’ money.

Biogas energy is produced from garbage or manure which is readily available in both rural and urban areas. It is produced by feeding the farm waste to pre-mixing tanks where it is heated to 100 ⁰f (38 ⁰c), which is the optimal temperature for the digestion (breaking down) of the waste to take place. The feed is then sent to reaction tanks where the waste is broken down to give off biogas. The methane from the reactors is used to power an engine which turns a generator to produce electricity. Solid waste generated at domestic level is the largest component of all wastes in the country. Almost 30 to 600 grams of solid waste is generated per person per day. That means an average person produces one tone of waste per year.

Biogas is cheap, sustainable and efficient compared to hydro power. It is pro-poor because it requires low levels of technology and can be used in remote areas where the national grid cannot reach or serve. According to Feachan et al 1993, Mcgarry and Stianforth 1978, the digestion of waste in biogas plants reduces parasite and pathogenic bacteria count by 90 per cent thus breaking the vicious cycle of infection via drinking water. This means that not only biogas energy a source of electricity but also reduces diseases that can be dangerous to Ugandans especially in rural areas.

Government should support the exploitation of other renewable energy resources as an alternative to generation of electricity from large dams and fossil fuels. This is because the continuing destruction of resources such as lakes, rivers, forests and others through pollution, land degradation and climate change constitute some of the social, economic problems facing Uganda today. These problems are seen at national level where official and unofficial government decisions made need to develop and improve renewable energy sources. The failure to invest in renewable energy development is the most obstacle to helping the poor and vulnerable people to access clean energy for social, economic and environmental wellbeing.

Therefore, the government should eradicate keeping the environment clean, while at the same time producing electricity from wastes. This can even save some people from spending money while paying for garbage collected from their residents, but instead benefit from these wastes. The government should learn a lesson from China-Shanghai where over 120 thousand people enjoyed a cool summer after benefiting from the country’s successful practice of turning waste into electricity. Other countries that have benefited from biogas energy to solve the energy problem include; India and South Korea with 650,000 biogases and 30,000 biogases respectively, compared to Uganda with 150 biogases only.