Energy: The oxygen of our economy

As the country goes to polls next month, the energy sector stands out as one of the main sectors of focus by the presidential candidates.

Energy is a central driver for economic growth be it in accelerating infrastructure, industrialisation or household income.
Because energy is such a central aspect of development, it is important that government and, indeed the presidential candidates, offer solutions and initiatives that seek to effectively tap into the energy potentials of the country to ensure easy and affordable access and utilisation of energy.

At a time when the oil price is continuously dipping, yet the country is planning to start oil production, any initiative by government should be looking at protecting the country from being overly dependent on petroleum and also put more emphasis on alternative energies.

It is true that the energy sector, if invested in well, can make a huge contribution to return on investment. This can be measured in terms of economic activity, employment and the contribution to the national coffers through taxes.

As the World Economic Forum report, energy vision update 2012 notes, beyond its direct contributions to the economy, energy is also deeply linked to other sectors in ways that are not immediately obvious. For example, each calorie of food we consume requires an average input of five calories of fossil fuel, and for high-end products like beef this rises to an average of 80 calories
But to make energy meaningful, it must be cheap and available.

Currently, a unit of power at domestic level is selling at Shs651 at Umeme, Shs610 at Wenreco, and at above shs500 at the other five power transmitters. This is double the price from five years ago when the country last went to the polls.

In 2013 our electricity consumption was as low as 215 Kwh per capita per annum. The Sub-Saharan average for the same period was 552 Kwh per capita per annum while the global average stood at 12,975 Kwh.
To take the sector forward, government should institute appropriate strategies and mechanisms to scale up rural access to energy services.

Mr Atuhaire is the head of Election reporting desk at Daily Monitor