The JCLOVE Group have posted excerpts of President Yoweri Museveni's New Year Message on their blog. The text is quite comprehensive, touching on issues like peace in Northern Uganda, education, health, and several "key priority areas" including energy.
The first part of the section on energy sounded deceptively routine and very 1960ish to me, speaking as it did about the "construction of new hydro-power stations in Bujagali and Karuma...planned to start in February and September 2007, respectively." As i continued down the page, however, it became clear that something new was happening here: In addition to increasing installed capacity for power supply, the Ugandan government is implementing...
an energy-loss reduction plan in the power system, and further actions to improve efficiency in energy use and demand are being implemented through, for instance, the importation of energy saving bulbs. Moreover, support will be given to consumers, both private and commercial, in installing solar-lighting and water-heating systems. The use of bio-gas, improved efficiency stoves to cater for rural energy requirements and production of electricity from municipal waste for sale of power into the grid will be enhanced...We are also supporting the development of several projects including small hydro power options, co-generation in sugar mills (e.g. the Kakira sugar works project) and biomass-gasification plants that are being developed as public-private partnerships to generate at least 50MW for the grid. Mini-hydro projects will, for instance, electrify areas in Rukungiri, Masindi, and Kibaale.
What have we here? Strong evidence of a major shift in thinking about energy for development. Museveni's new year message signals a break from the established energy paradigm which may be summed up as follows: "expand generation and transmission capacity, set tariffs, subsidize as expedient, problem solved." Instead, Museveni seems to be walking the talk of a more balanced approach. This includes commitments to increase the role of renewable energy, and the assignment of equal priority to efficiency and conservation. And this is more than just talk. Museveni's new drive to promote the use of energy-saving light bulbs, for instance, is a first step in the right direction.