Uganda: What Is the future of renewable energy?

Wind farm23 October 2013, Kampala – Last year, the Ugandan government inaugurated the 250MW Bujagali hydro power station to harness the energy potential of Bujagali falls.

Now the country is revelling in two significant events: the launch of the construction of ambitious 600MW Karuma power station, and the announcement that oil production will begin in 2018. Hydro power is free of environmentally- hazardous carbons and oil production will solve our energy problems, let alone rake in the money to achieve an early eradication of poverty.

So, it would then sound like this would be the wrong time to talk about renewable energy. Not really!

Oil, natural gas, coal and, to some extent, hydro power, have so effectively served humanity’s energy needs for centuries but will, unfortunately, not last forever. Not only that, carbon dioxide emissions from oil, gas and coal are destructive to the environment and contribute heavily to climate change.

Hydro power, on its part, suffers from falling water levels and cannot be said to be entirely dependable in the long run. Energy generated from renewable sources such as wind, biomass, and solar is regarded as the future of the world.

It is environmentally friendly, hence green, and not subject to depletion; therefore, renewable and sustainable. Without questioning, the long-term future of our energy should lie in renewables. Only that there is a short-term question: what is the future of renewable energy?

A visit early this month to Whitelee wind farm located 15 kilometres north of Glasgow, United Kingdom, provided some answers but also raised numerous questions and concerns.

This 215-turbine facility can at full capacity generate 539 MW of electricity and is Europe’s largest wind farm. According to the visitors’ guide, Whitelee produces “cleaner, greener energy enough to power the equivalent of over 300,000 homes”.

It is a blueprint of the future of energy. However, bump into any Briton on the street and talk about Whitelee and they will lament that remove government subsidies and it will be no more.

To attract investors to the unprofitable green energy projects, Britain uses subsidies funded by a tax chargeable on the power bills of every household around the UK. Green energy is not profitable and without subsidies no company will ever invest in it.

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