The Daily Monitor of October 25 misrepresented the initiative to provide free energy-saving bulbs, recently announced by the Electricity Regulatory Authority. I wish to highlight the facts and to further clarify the purpose of the initiative.
Contrary to the Daily Monitor’s opinion, the government’s decision to procure and distribute these bulbs to consumers for free is not at all a gift to Umeme Ltd.
Taken out of context, providing free bulbs may not appear to be Uganda’s most pressing need. However, sufficient electricity supply is a national priority and large-scale use of energy-saving bulbs is an effective way to ensure reliable and adequate electricity supply. The investment in these energy savers, also known as Light Emitting Diodes (LED), is part of ERA’s strategy to ensure efficient energy use by targeting domestic consumers. It is part of a collection of energy efficiency programmes that are taken on the consumer’s side to improve efficiency in electricity consumption especially at peak hours.
Managing consumption now will make it possible to match supply with demand as more and more projects are developed and dispatched to the grid. With demand under control, and well managed short and long term network constraints, the possibilities of dispatching expensive power generation alternatives will be minimised and, therefore, possible increases in electricity prices will also be minimised. It, therefore, makes the most sense to manage demand at peak hours by investing in energy efficient technologies that reduce both the total energy consumed and the demand exerted on the grid.
When a country is faced with the likelihood of demand outstripping supply, promoting energy efficiency is an effective measure to reduce overall consumption permanently.
Energy-saving bulbs will have a quick and dramatic impact on demand, which normally peaks in the evening hours due to residential consumption. It’s easier and cheaper to save energy through the most economical sources available such as energy-saving bulbs than to build a new plant of equal capacity. Such a plant would be impossible to complete in as short a time frame. It’s also cheaper than installing expensive thermal plants that would force the tariff up significantly.
Efficient use of energy can affect the profitability of electricity suppliers if it translates in less power sold. This would be bad for business from the seller’s point of view. Therefore, offering consumers free energy-saving bulbs cannot be a gift to Umeme Ltd because low demand is not in the company’s interest as a business.
Ugandans need all social services including reliable and affordable electricity to preserve medicines in hospitals and to enable doctors to carry out critical and life-saving medical procedures, students to read and undertake their practical courses without interruption, and businesses to operate and grow. Providing free bulbs is not in any way discriminatory. It’s a self-financing programme for consumers connected to the national grid. It targets the main grid because that is where the steepest growth in energy consumption is.
It’s self-financing in that electricity consumers on the national grid are funding this project to mitigate run-away demand that might necessitate expensive options to keep power on. As a self-funded scheme, it’s the energy consumers’ own money, not every taxpayer’s, that is being ploughed back to guarantee supply for the consumer. The bulbs that have been procured are of very high quality, manufactured to the buyer’s specifications and therefore their quality is far superior compared to those available down town as referred to in the article. Although the initial cost of these energy-saving LEDs is greater than that of conventional incandescent lighting, the long-term maintenance cost is lower because LED bulbs last longer. LED technology is, therefore, a viable lighting source that can significantly cut down power use per household, thereby freeing up energy for other users.
The provision of energy savers as part of the effort to keep the demand for electricity in check will sensitise consumers to their value and motivate them to switch to LED lighting for good. This will benefit all Ugandans as it will make electricity affordable to and accessible, by those who are off the grid at the moment.
Mr Wandera is the principal communications officer chief executive office, Electricity Regulatory Authority.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor