A solar power plant with 10 megawatt capacity was commissioned in Tororo on Monday.
The Tororo Solar North plant comes on the heels of another with the same capacity that was launched in Soroti in December 2016.
The government has in recent years prioritised electricity generation after realising that the country can’t develop without affordable energy.
Consequently, there has been massive investment in electricity generation with most of the money going into hydro power dam construction. Two sizeable dams are nearing completion at Karuma and Isimba.
Once completed, Uganda’s installed electricity capacity will jump over the 1,000MW mark, but this will remain well below the expectation of a country dreaming of rapid transformation.
However, dam construction is very expensive and has environmental repercussions. In addition, transmitting hydro-power is an expensive undertaking, especially in rural and sparsely populated areas.
Besides, according to experts, even if all hydro-power sites were exploited, they wouldn’t generate enough electricity to power Uganda’s needs in the next 20 years.
It is, therefore, wise and strategic to explore alternatives. Nuclear energy has been mentioned and MOUs signed with Russia in that regard, but this is a long short and is unlikely to be realised in Uganda in the next 10 years.
On the other hand, Uganda has comparative advantage in solar power. With the sun out 12 months every year, it’s incredible that this country is not exploiting this natural resource much more.
Europeans and Americans, with their less than six months of sunshine every year, are exploiting solar energy to a greater extent than Africans!
The 20MW in Soroti and now Tororo is a good step forward, but it should just be the start of a solar revolution in Uganda. Just as it did with oil, the government should invest in training and skilling a critical mass of human resource needed to spark this revolution.
Government should also attract investors to manufacture or assemble solar panels and related accessories to make it cheaper for Ugandans and transfer technology. Uganda’s comparative advantage in solar should be fully exploited.