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    Why is surplus power not helping Ugandans?


    September 7, 2022 - The Daily Monitor

     

      For more than 16 years, Uganda has paid Shs1.4 trillion to 13 power generation firms for electricity that was not evacuated (deemed power).

      For the financial year that ended June 30, 2021, the government spent up to Shs87.7b in paying deemed energy costs in regards to 13 power purchase agreements (PPAs), according to the auditor General. This is a very huge loss the country is making by spending such amounts of money on the product that is not utilised.

      For example Achwa dam hydro power which lacked transmission lines and the government through UEDCL, constructed a Shs30b temporary distribution line to evacuate 12MW of the total 41MW generated from the dam. However, the line only evacuated power for four months before halting the process due to technical glitches occasioned by differences in construction design of the dam and line.

       This has left people in Gulu suffering power outages despite neighbouring a hydro power dam whose developers are earning billions for redundancy and yet the government has to face charges. On August 13, media reported about Isimba dam staring at Shs5b error. It revealed that flooding of the Isimba hydro-power dam led to its temporary shutdown and this was a result of human error. As a result, Umeme warned the public to brace for power blackouts for eight days.

      Despite the surplus power of about 1346.7mw only 800mw is consumed by Ugandans during peak hours while 400mw is consumed during off-peak hours. This means that more than 500mw is deemed power.

      Following this incident, why should Ugandans suffer an eight days blackout yet the country is generating excess electricity that cannot be consumed by the population.

      It is unfortunate that the government continues to spend billions of shillings on big dams yet Ugandans are not benefitting from the generated power.

      The failure of Isimba to supply electricity raises fresh questions by Ugandans on the allegations by the Former Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga who informed the public about Shs24 billion that was embezzled during the construction of the dam. Absurdly, no person was held accountable for making the government lose such billions of money.

      Sadly, Ugandans are also paying for deemed power that is not being used. In the recent Auditor General report 2021, it was indicated that the government lost Shs80 billion from deemed electricity.

      The deemed power has partly contributed to the exorbitant power tariffs which explain why most Ugandans are shunning grid electricity for solar power as indicated by the UBOS report 2020.

      Only 19 percent of the population had access to electricity yet the country has over the years boasted about the presence of surplus power

      For all these issues to be solved, the Ministry of Energy together with sister agencies should put emphasis on the following.

      First, stop load shedding. In the presence of surplus electricity, Ugandans continue to suffer rampant load shedding which has affected their livelihoods. A number of businesses need electricity to function but this is not possible due to the constant power outages.

      Secondly, tap into other resources. Uganda is blessed with alternative clean energy like off-grid solar energy that has the capacity to provide for both domestic and industrial purposes.

      Furthermore, critical public institutions such as health centres, schools, water supply schemes, and government offices, are at the heart of socio-economic development in any community.

      However, limited or no access to electricity often hampers the efficacy of such institutions and holds back services to the communities. Off-grid electricity supply such as solar power sources can be used to meet the energy needs of remote public institutions.

      Also, the government must address the issue of corruption in the energy sector which has resulted in shoddy work and poor service delivery that has limited the access to clean, reliable, and affordable electricity for a number of Ugandans.

      Thirdly, review and address the outstanding electricity sector issues. Electricity consumers have continuously suffered a number of challenges such as high power tariffs and sub-standard meters among others. Therefore, there is a need for the government to address these issues.

      Restructure and, if possible, delay construction of new (large) power stations to balance grid supply and demand . Government should put more emphasis on transmission and distribution investments to enable evacuation of power and serve latent demand.

      Finally, the ministry should put more emphasis on power generation, transmission and distribution to solve the challenge of deemed power.

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