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Uganda Loadshedding to persist despite Bujagali's 50MW on the Grid


As the parliamentary ad hoc committee on energy concluded its probe into the energy sector Thursday, the Uganda Electricity Transmission Company (UETCL) revealed the extent of power shortage the country is grappling with despite the recent uploading of 50MW from Bujagali hydro power dam on the national grid.

UETCL Managing Director, Erias Kiyemba, told the committee that the first 50MW Bujagali unit switched on last month only helped plug the energy deficiency caused by the untimely decommissioning of Aggreko Kiira.

Kiyemba said only the commissioning of the third 50MW unit in May will provide some relief from loadsheding because it will not be followed by immediate decommissioning of another private power generator.

"The first Bujagali unit came at a time when the country was mired in a deep energy crisis and its impact couldn't be felt. It has just helped to cover the lost ground in this regard," Kiyemba said in response to queries by MPs why the power cuts have continued unabated despite the addition of 50MW on the national grid.

Uganda's energy generation capacity is oscillating between 270 to 370MW from a combination of hydro and independent thermal power generating companies. This, however, cannot meet the country's total energy demands of 450MW.

This has since 2006 occasioned the purchase of power from private thermal energy generators, which has proved expensive with the subsidies required to keep the tariffs more affordable.

Kiyemba yesterday admitted that the sh1.8 trillion (about $900) government has spent on energy subsidies between 2006-to -2011 is enough to construct a 200MW hydro power dam.

This, he acceded, would have provided a more viable and long lasting remedy to Uganda's energy demands given the country's proven potential for hydro power.

In mid-January, Energy Minister, Irene Muloni announced government's plans to suspend subsidies in order to expend enough resources on increasing the country's power generation capacity. This, the minister said, would create a more reliable power supply.

Meanwhile, Uganda has outstanding arrears of sh126.5 billion to Kenya Power Ltd and a host of private energy generators in Uganda.

These arrears have resulted from government failing to pay for power purchased from private generators like Mpanga, Aggreko, ElectroMaxx, Jacobsen, and Kakira.

The ad hoc committee was established in January to investigate issues of power tariffs, subsidies and the failure to implement the Salim Saleh report which had proffered a series of recommendations tailored to positively transforming the energy sector in the country.

By Moses Walubiri: The New Vision Newspaper

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