By Ibrahim Kasita
Uganda will start a geothermal resources department in the ministry of energy and mineral development to develop underground energy for electricity production.
Geothermal energy is the heat from the earth and is recognized as renewable energy resources like hydropower and biomass.
The existence of recent volcanic activity and active extensive tectonism in the western rift valley makes the region ideal for geothermal energy occurrence due to relatively high heat flow rates in the area.
“In order to fast track the development of geothermal energy, government is in the process of establishing a geothermal resources department,” Vincent Kato, the principal geologist in the department of geology survey and mines, said.
“This is awaiting a certifcate of financial implication from Ministry of Finance. This department will steer geothermal energy development in Uganda.”
The creation of standalone geothermal entities is not new phonomenon. Kenya established Geothermal Development Company (DGC) and Tanzania is forming an independent institution to do the same.
Kato disclosed that Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has extended technical assistance to assess all the geothermal resource sites in Uganda and rank the most prospective for future development.
“JICA will again extend technical assistance to develop the highly ranked geothermal prospect. They visited 17 sites in south west and western Uganda in seven districts,” he said.
Kato said that government has committed public funds towards the development of geothermal energy under the "Uganda Geothermal Resources Development Project.”
He said government is undertaking surface studies in Panyimur (Nebbi), Kibiro (Hoima), Katwe-Kikorongo (Kasese) and Buranga (Bundibugyo-Ntoroko) area.
“In addition the government is undertaking studies on other geothermal sites (stocktaking its geothermal resources), establishing and managing data bases, human capital development in Iceland, and Kenya.
So far 25 Ugandans have been trained in geothermal related discipline. “Government is now procuring breakthrough equipment to image the underground and locate the geothermal reserviour for drilling,” Katon said.
So far seven companies have been licenced to explore for geothermal resources but all of them lack technical, financial and operation resources to explore and develop geothermnal.
They include Katwe Geothermal Power Project Ltd, Gids Consult Limited, Cozumel Energy Uganda Ltd, Moberge Finance Ltd, Clean Source Energy Partners and Pawakom International Ltd and Ascot Associates.
There are two big barriers against geothermal energy development; resource development risks and large up-front investment.
Private companies are not willing to develop geothermal energy. Uganda has submitted a proposal to Geothermal Risk Mitigation Facility at African Union, for financial and technical assistance.
This facility was established to assist in developing geothermal energy in east African countries.
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Uganda to set up geothermal energy firm