European Union to Lead UN Energy Initiative in Uganda

The United Nations has designated the European Union to be the lead agency for an ambitious new initiative that see all Ugandans get access to affordable electricity by 2030. Top UN and EU officials along with private sector executives, last week signed a memorandum of understanding with the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development Irene Muloni to launch the effort dubbed, Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) in Uganda.

Luis Gomez-Echeverri, the senior advisor to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and Klaus Rudischhauser, the director of the European Commission, led the high level mission. The officials told journalists at a press briefing at the ministry headquarters that access to affordable energy was ‘missing’ from Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) yet it is indispensable for sustainable development and achieving the other eight MDGs.

Research has established that access to electricity was a key factor in health, education and lifting the standard of living generally. Yet, in Uganda only 5% of the rural population has access to it. This, according to the UN, had a crippling effect on the wellbeing and development potential of citizens.

Gomez-Echeverri said the initiative aims at attracting global attention and public and private commitments to meeting three key objectives by 2030 - ensuring universal access to modern energy sources, doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency and doubling the share of renewable energy in the energy mix. Launched in 2010 to coincide with the designation of 2012 as the ‘International Year of Sustainable Energy for All,’ SE4ALL aims to achieve universal energy access, improve energy efficiency, and increase the use of renewable energy sources. Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania are among only eight African countries that the UN picked to pilot the initiative.

Muloni welcomed the initiative; saying it was in tandem with the National Development Programme, which set 2035 as the energy for all target. She said energy was a priority sector for the government in a country whose installed generation capacity stands at just 416 MW.

The officials said Uganda needs investments worth $48 billion per year to achieve the targets, which presents excellent opportunities for private investment.

Roberto Ridolfi, the EU head of delegation to Uganda, said the EU has a history in Uganda of being a lead agency in infrastructure development. He said they plan to make energy a priority sector in the 11th European Development Fund (EDF).

As part of the effort, a multi-institutional committee headed by the United Nations Development Programme will drive the activities and programmes on the ground.

To achieve the SE4ALL targets, state actors, international NGOs, private investors, public institutions, civil society and academia will be mobilized to prioritise access to energy for the poorest by providing efficient solutions for delivering off-grid energy such as solar, mini-hydro dams, biomass, geothermal and energy efficient stoves using locally available resources.

By Peter Nyanzi
The Independent Newspaper

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