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Uganda’s electricity boom

Ongoing construction of Isimba HydrDam on River Nile. COURTESY PHOTO.

New generations could trigger a drop in tariffs

Kampala, Uganda | JULIUS BUSINGE | Uganda government is expected to commission Isimba and Karuma hydropower dams this year as one big step towards boosting the elec¬tricity supply in the country.

The commissioning of the two hydro¬power plants with a combined capacity of 783MW will see the country’s installed elec¬tricity generation capacity increase from the current 955MW to 1,738MW.

This development is expected to reduce on the power cuts as well as drive the elec-tricity cost downwards amidst the growing demand from commercial and domestic consumers.

Currently, the average electricity retail base tariff rates applicable for the year 2019 as announced by the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) on December 24, 2018 for the various consumer categories include; Shs769 per kWh for domestic consumers, Shs684.8 per kWh for commercial consum¬ers, Shs613 per kWh for medium industrial consumers and Shs377.7 per kWh for large industrial consumers.

Other are Shs311.9 per kWh for extra-large industrial consumers and Shs751.1 per kWh for street lighting.

The Chief Executive Officer of the ERA, Ziria Tibalwa Waako told The Independent in an interview that “2019 is a glittering year because of the infrastructure that is coming onboard and the positives that it brings.”

She also said key players in the sector including power distributor Umeme and transmitters would expect to invest more in the infrastructure this year to facilitate elec-tricity distribution to consumers.

The country had 1.3million electricity consumers connected to the national grid as at the end of September 2018, up from approximately 1.18million as at the end of 2017, according to ERA.

Tibalwa said key transmission lines that are under construction including Tororo- Opuyo-Lira, Bujagali-Tororo, Kawanda- Karuma, Karuma-Lira and Kawanda-Kap¬eeka are expected to be completed this year.

ERA’s Manager for Communication, Julius Wandera, said many areas country¬wide including northern region that has been experiencing repeated power outages will benefit from the new infrastructure that is being constructed.

“From a regulator’s point of view there are headaches that are going to be answered…because of that infrastructure coming onboard,” he said.

Wandera said the regulator expects con¬tinued refurbishment of the ageing Jinja based Nalubaale Power Station, formerly known as Owen Falls Dam to ensure con¬tinued supply of electricity from the facility to the national grid.

Meanwhile, Tibalwa said they support government initiatives geared towards growing electricity demand and supply including ‘the energy rebate policy’ and the ‘electricity connection policy.’

Energy rebate policy deals with electricity compensation to an individual or firm that designs, finances and constructs electricity distribution infrastructure in an area that is not connected to the national electricity grid.

Tibalwa said the policy would continue to encourage industrial customers in 2019 including medium industrial, large indus¬trial and extra large industrial customers to invest in the electricity network.

She said more efforts will be geared towards implementation of the 2018 gov¬ernment policy to connect consumers at no cost. The policy implementation is expected to increase consumer’s access to electricity from the current 20% to 30% at the end of this year and 60% by 2027.

“ERA urges all qualifying Ugandan households to embrace the policy and get connected to electricity which shall in turn increase electricity consumption in both short and long term,” Tibalwa said

Only consumers whose houses are located 30 to 90 meters from an existing power distribution line qualify for free connections provided that their houses are wired by certified electricians, according to the policy.

The regulator also expects that the newly licensed mini-grids and off-grids small power plants in different parts of the coun¬try will allow more households and institu¬tions to access power.

They include; the 0.3MW Kisizi hospital mini hydro-power plant, the 0.1 Bwindi Mini-hydro power plant, the 0.04 Swuam Community Micro-Hydro-power plant in Bukwo, the 0.05MW Pamoja energy power plant in Kamwenge, the 0.05MW Muduuma Biomass plant in Mpigi and the 0.23MW Kitobo small power plant on Kitobo Island.

Others expected to be constructed in 2019 include the 0.1MW plant in Bukasa Island and the 0.03MW plant in Bunjako in Mpigi district.

ERA is developing a framework for regulation of these mini-grids to ensure they operate within agreeable terms and conditions and in line with the country’s electricity framework.

The Uganda Manufacturers Association Executive Director, Daniel Birungi told The Independent that they would continue to engage government on key policies geared towards lowering power tariffs and elec¬tricity extension in their areas of operation to ease the cost of doing business.

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