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Lockdown caused drop in power consumption

Umeme workers erecting electricity poles.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Uganda saw a dramatic fall in the consumption of electricity in the last two months with officials saying this impacted on the amount of money collected to pay for such activities as generation and transmission.

Robert Kasande, the permanent secretary of Ministry of Energy said on Friday during an online meeting organized by Absa Uganda said that electricity consumption had fallen below the average level and that payments from consumers some of whom are government agencies and health facilities were not forth coming.

Uganda now generates 1,254 megawatts of power. On normal days before the coronavirus lockdown, Ugandans consumed just an average of 720 MW. Kasande said consumption has fallen below that.

Uganda’s electricity agreements are designed in such a way that all the power generated must be paid for whether used or not. This means that government will have to spend billions of shillings paying for the electricity that went unconsumed in the last few months – in addition to paying for that that was not being consumed before COVID-19.

Selestino Babungi, the managing director of power distributor Umeme, said 67.7% of their power consumers were factories and many of these were either closed or operational at a minimal capacity. This meant less power was used. Only 25% of the population is connected on the national grid.

He also said such activities as entertainment, hotel services also consumed power yet many have been closed. Also smaller SMEs that also used power in their operations remained closed for at least 70 days.

Meanwhile, Kasande said government was looking for a way to pay power bills for the health centres especially those being used for isolation and quarantining of the coronavirus suspects.

He said together with ministry of Finance they were working on a loan facility of 450 billion shillings for this purpose.

On the ongoing works, Kasande said COVID-19 had affected the timeline for the finishing of Karuma dam, which is expected to add 600MW to the national grid.

He said workers were unable to bring in equipment and test them for plant acceptability. Also some workers were locked in China when the country closed borders.

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