The question of gender imbalance in Uganda’s energy sector maybe a thing of the past if ongoing efforts by Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) to mentor gals to take up science-related courses makes impact.
According to ERA Chief Executive Officer Eng Ziria Tibalwa Waako, the current gender imbalance seen in many sectors mainly the energy sector is as a result of the fact that historically, there were a few females who pursued science, technology, engineering and mathematics related courses.
“The issue of gender imbalance in the energy sector is historical. In the past, there were not as many females pursuing science and maths related courses as well as careers that are labour intensive such as engineering” she noted, but however, added that this problem is gradually being overcomed especially in the energy sector which she described as a model sector now for gender mainstreaming.
“For example, right now, most of the sector’s leadership is female right from the minister, the CEO of Uganda National Oil Company, the acting ED of Rural Electrification Agency and myself as the CEO of the regulator” Eng. Ziria said adding that even in other private sector entities such as Eskom Uganda, the managing director is a female while in Umeme limited, the Chief Operations Officer and the director finance for Bujagali Energy limited among others, are all ladies.
With the desire to address the historical attitude by gals towards science courses, the Energy Sector according to Ziria is running a program initiated by ERA coded as ‘Women in Energy’. She said it is through this program that during the month of March each year, the sector moves around the country visiting various schools to mentor gals. The emphasis is put on interesting these gals in numeracy and science related courses.
“We want them to replace us in the end. We also have a capacity building program within the Electricity Supply Industry where we provide some limited resources to the licensees to recruit and train fresh graduates. All these are efforts to create more female engineers in this country” she said.
Eng. Ziria, who has been at the whelm of ERA since 2017 says the sector has achieved much not only under her tenure. For example, she said in the last four years, her efforts have been geared towards ensuring adequate power supply as well as improving the investment and regulatory climate.
She said ERA has also continued to monitor the licensed companies to adhere to the terms and conditions of their licenses and above all, these four years saw Uganda commissioning it’s first grid-connected solar photovoltaic plant of 10MW. These Solar power plants have so far swollen to four in number bringing 60.8MW.
On the whole, Ziria says the sector has registered tremendous achievements since liberalization in 2000 in the areas of generation, distribution and transmission.
In total, ERA has licensed 67 companies for generation, distribution and transmission purposes.
For example in generation segment alone, Ziria says from 2000, this capacity has grown more than 13 times. At that time, we had only 3 generation plants but now, these have increased to over 40 plants. This has risen the total installed generation capacity from mere 400MW in 2000 to 1263.2MW as of January this year.
“By next year, this is expected to rise to 1837.49MW with the commissioning of Karuma hydro power project. It will produce 600MW” she said.
She said the country’s generation capacity has seen these strides thanks to a decision to undertake a cocktail of generation sources. Among these includes Hydro (1053.59MW), Thermal (100MW), Cogeneration (63.9MW), Grid connected Solar (60.8MW), and Off grids and mini grids contributing 13MW.
“To evacuate this power, a total of 2493km of transmission lines have been added since the reforms bringing the total grid length to 3223km. Also the number of electricity distribution companies now stand at 8 up from only one” she said adding that this has since aided access to affordable power and more connections. She said the connections have since gone high from 180000 to now over 1.6m.
She noted that in spite of these achievements, the Covid pandemic and other natural disasters have had a direct negative impact on the electricity supply industry causing some interruptions.
“None the less, we remain committed to providing sustainable electricity supply to all Ugandans” she assured the country.