By Barbara Ajilong
By now, so many of us are used to living in pitch-black houses (albeit grudgingly) every now and then.
With the power black-outs going from bad to worse, and from worse to simply annoying, many questions are left unanswered in peopleâ€™s minds, concerning the energy situation in the country.
Energy is needed for each and every activity in our daily life. Be it cooking food, pumping water or even sleeping and walking, energy is needed. To many of us though, electricity is the main form of energy that is utilised for most of our domestic activities.
The country currently depends on hydro-power generated from Nalubaale (formerly Owen falls dam) and its extension, Kiira power station in Jinja. This plant has an installed capacity to generate 300 megawatts of power but currently 220 megawatts of power is generated. This leaves a deficit of 80 megawatts, which needs to be covered.
Load-shedding has become synonymous with the countryâ€™s power situation, with power being cut off every other day even during the day.
According to Engineer Paul Mubiru, the commissioner for energy department, the current inconsistencies in power supply faced in the country are mainly because of a lack of balance in the supply and demand.
â€œThe demand for power is very high, especially at peak hours (between 6:00pm and 11:00pm). At least 350MW of power is required at this point to cater for all the peopleâ€™s needs yet only 220MW is supplied from the facility,â€ Mubiru explains.
The demand for power is especially high at peak hours because this is the time when many of us get back home from work. The television, radio, lighting, kettle, name them, are all switched on, thus using up more electricity.
Mubiru says consumers of power can play a major role in addressing the power supply problem. They can obtain plenty of efficiency gains through rational utilisation. Rational utilisation involves the consumers using energy more efficiently by not wasting it and instead saving it.
According to James Banaabe, a senior energy officer with the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, in the short run, it is cheaper to reduce demand by saving energy than putting up new power plants. He argues that if 250,000 Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Limited consumers each, replaced an average of two 100 watts bulbs with 20 watts efficient lamps, the reduction in demand would be 40MW, which is equal to a turbine at Kiira Power Station.
By and large, energy is not a fixed cost but a variable cost that depends largely on how one uses it.