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USD900M Bujagali Hydropower project on River Nile Uganda Delayed Again


The Bujagli hydropower project, seen as crucial in solving the acute power shortage in the country, will not come on board this Thursday, as earlier planned.
Technical hitches in the completed unit of the project now require engineers to disassemble the unit and fix it afresh to avoid possible “permanent damage”.

A source familiar with the Jinja-based project — which is at the heart of major efforts to end the power shortage — says the unit, which should have been on board Thursday December 15, can only come on board end of February following a leak inside the unit. The leak requires that the whole unit is broken down; the leak is stopped and then rebuilt.

"The plant is complete, but the commissioning of the first unit has been delayed due to technical challenges. We discovered that there is a damage and must be rectified as it could cause a bigger damage to the machines," said the source.

This means that the crippling energy crisis will continue probably until February 2012, at the earliest following information that the rebuilding of the unit could last at least another two months.

Already a team of electro-mechanical installation officials from Alstom Hydro, of France are in the country to work through the Christmas period. Alstom Hydro was sub-contracted under the Italian contractor Salini Hydo Ltd back in 2008 to provide electrical and mechanical components for the project.

To ascertain the extent of the damage and progress in the other units, a team from the ministry of Energy, led by State Minister Simon D’Ujanga and developers visited the dam on Thursday.

After the visit, the French Minister for International Co-operation, Mr Henri de Raincourt, held a closed-door meeting with President Museveni in which he reportedly assured him that the team of engineers from Alstom Hydro would fix the problem within two months.

Government ministers are tight-lipped about the matter but State House said in a statement on Friday that President Museveni told the visiting French Minister that "Uganda is currently faced with problems in the power sector adding that any support in the sector was very welcome."

When asked about the technical hitch, Mr D’Ujanga said: "There should be no worry. What is happening there is normal. You can see calibration of all the parts of the machine." Mr D’Ujanga said the reservoirs have been filled to capacity and functional tests are being undertaken. He was, however, non committal on the commissioning date of the first 50MW. "As soon as the functional test is done; we are testing the first 50MW and it could come on board in January," he said.

The dam construction has already faced delays and the commissioning date for the first 50MW unit has been postponed thrice, with "technical hitches" being given as reason for the postponements.

Bujagali is seen as a medium-term effort to stem the power crisis that has knocked more than two percentage points off economic growth. The country is currently experiencing a power crisis with demand standing at 450MW against a total supply of 345MW. The country is currently relying on expensive thermal power to meet the energy demands. However, its supply has been unreliable.

The Monitor Newspaper Uganda - 11-12-2011

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