Plan will support government’s development targets relating to electricity distribution countrywide
Kampala, Uganda | JULIUS BUSINGE | Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Limited is seeking US$3.1million (approx. Shs11billion) to start construction of its mega pole production plant in Wakiso District.
Paul Mwesigwa, the managing director for UEDCL said on Aug.17 that they are in the process of securing funds to pave way for the construction in the next one or two years.
Mwesigwa, who was speaking on the sidelines of the National Planning Authority (NPA) technical team’s visit to the company’s pole plant in Lugogo, Kampala, said they intend to borrow 70% of the funds from Uganda Development Bank and the rest from the company’s savings towards the plant construction.
“All approvals have been attained including architectural designs and environmental impact assessments,” he said, adding that the project once completed will complement the government’s efforts towards electrification countrywide.
He said the project will consist of three plants – concrete pole plant ($1.6m), creosote pole plant ($0.8m) and CCA pole plant ($0.7m).
Sitting on 75 acres of land at Kyampisi, Namayumba Town Council – Wakiso district, the project is part of the company’s strategic plan 2020/2021-2024/2025 that corresponds to the National Development Plan III (2020/21-2024/2025) that also strives to fill the electricity supply gap across the country.
This development comes at the time the current plant is churning out 25,000 treated poles a year compared with the market demand of 270,000 per annum, according to Jonan Kiiza, the senior corporate affairs and public relations officer at UEDCL.
Kiiza said the deficit is filled by supply from private treatment plants that have quality challenges.
UEDCL executives said the Kyampisi project has started transforming lives in the host communities as utilities such as power is already sourced at the site.
The company has also set aside 30 acres of land to plant eucalyptus trees as well as secured a PPDA accreditation to allow registered local youth groups to plant, maintain and handover one year old forests, promoting social-economic transformation in the host communities.
Mwesigwa said the government’s Operation Wealth Creation programme could take advantage of the planned project through provision of seedlings to farmers that are likely to supply trees to the project as they mature.
Meanwhile, NPA’s Manager in charge of Infrastructure, Industry and Physical Planning, George Bwanga, said their visit to the UEDCL pole treatment plant was meant to take stock of the company’s contribution during the implementation of the NDPII which ended on June 30, 2020.
The other reasons, he said, was related to the human rights approach that the company used to deliver the services to its clients as well as document its success stories in service delivery.
“We are impressed with work they are doing and the planned expansion that they are working on,” Bwanga said.
He added that most government agencies that they have visited have very good plans on paper but have limited finances to meet their investment plans. He also said land acquisition remains a big challenge for most projects of government.
The Lugogo plant
This pole plant has a 35,000 annual installed production capacity and employs 38 people. It is however operating below capacity – producing 25, 000 poles a year. It was established in 1956 shortly after Uganda commissioning its first hydropower station at the Owen Falls Dam. The plant was established on the account of producing high-quality wooden utility poles which were to be used in setting up a robust distribution and transmission infrastructure.
Officials said that this mandate has been sustained to date and the same poles have also been sold to Umeme Limited and projects under government rural electrification programmes.
The pole plant is certified under ISO 9001:2015, a key aspect that allowed its products to be exported to Rwanda, Tanzania, South Sudan markets and beyond.
On average, UEDCL spends Shs10billion annually to purchase mature eucalyptus trees 8-12 years from the local farmers, according to UEDCL executives.
The executives said the treated poles are fixed with a radio frequency identification tag before leaving the plant for grid digital traceability and also creating a difference since they may be fake products out in the market.
UEDCL is a government agency established by the electricity Act of 1999 to own all assets of 33kV and below. Through government of Uganda’s foreign direct investment strategy, UEDCL assets were concessioned to Umeme Limited for 20 years starting April 1, 2005 excluding off-grid areas of Moroto, Moyo, and Adjumani which were not commercially viable. The company is licensed by the Electricity Regulatory Authority to distribute power in eight service territories across Uganda.