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Formulating a Geothermal Energy Policy, Legal and Regulatory Framework for Uganda

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Paul Zakkour c.s.
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Although geothermal energy prospects in Uganda have been known about for more than 30 years, exploratory drilling for geothermal resources has yet to take place anywhere in the country. The current situation has arisen despite a wide variety of surface studies being undertaken by Government and development partners, and a number of geothermal exploration licenses being issued to private sector prospectors over recent years. In addition, policy commitments have been made in support of the technology, including the availability of a feed - in tariff for geothermal power plants. At least four sites in the country show good signs of the presence of medium - to high - temperature hydrothermal systems, but there are only limited signs that one licensee may be close to embarking on an exploration drilling campaign. The lack of a clear policy and legal framework which can foster the emergence of the industry is widely considered as a barrier for further developments in the country.

The Government of Uganda recognises that it needs to take an active role in supporting the sector. The aim of the policy and legal framework is to, inter alia, give clearer direction as to how geothermal energy projects can be developed, by whom, over what time frame, and using which sources of finance and support mechanisms. The legal framework must serve to enact the policy into a binding system that provides clear direction for all involved. It will also clarify the mandate for the newly - established Geothermal Resources Department regarding its role in, inter alia, supporting survey and exploration, de-risking steamfield development, coordinating donors and investors, coordinating access to power markets, coordinating access to land and other environmental permits, aligning progress with the national development plan and defining its regulatory function etc.