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MPs query uninterrupted power exports amidst unstable local supply

Inside electrical energy distribution room in Masaka Station

Ntungamo, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT |  Members of the Natural Resources Committee of Parliament have questioned continued power interruptions in the country in contrast to uninterrupted power exports.

The MPs who were on a field trip to Western Uganda to ascertain the level of electricity penetration in the area,  expressed the concern while visiting substations in Masaka, Ntungamo and Kasese districts, where they were told that electricity supply to Rwanda, Tanzania, and Kenya is uninterrupted.     

Kibale Woman MP Noreen Basemera Kisembo says that seven out of the 14 sub-counties in her district are not connected to the national grid, and advises that the government focuses on meeting the domestic demand, before exporting power. She adds that although Ugandans appreciate the contributions of earnings from exported power, the absence of local supply raises serious questions.  

Uganda exported 320,372 megawatts of electricity to the region between January 2019 and January 2020, earning 170 billion Shillings. This is according to a report released by the Bank of Uganda in March. But Arua Municipality MP Kassiano Wadri questioned why power export has become a key area of focus, instead of managing load-shedding, power blackouts and unavailability locally.

Kashari North MP Wilberforce Yaguma says that he is extremely disappointed that Uganda is launching mega power projects but many of his constituents don’t have power. 

However, the committee chairperson Keefa Kiwanuka says that Uganda has excess power, and exports help to reduce the cost. He adds that the challenge right now is expanding distribution and transmission lines to reach all corners of the country. He adds that with the coming on board of Karuma Power Dam, Uganda will have 1500 megawatts, yet its peak consumption remains at 600 megawatts at peak hour.

Stephen Mukasa, the Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at Uganda Electricity Transmission company Limited (UETCL) says that there is no longer load-shedding in general but shutdowns are often planned for cases where poles have fallen, and wires have broken. He says that several times the blackouts are also from the connections in the region, saying when Kenya for instance gets a fault, the system in Uganda can go down.

During his Independence day Speech, President Yoweri Museveni said that the country is working on reducing the high cost of electricity by completing the transmission lines to evacuate power from Karuma Dam to the manufacturing hubs inland and to export excess power to neighbouring countries of DRC and South Sudan.

 

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