Uganda’s power distributor Umeme loses about Shs100 billion in electricity thefts annually, with Shs10 billion lost in Mbale alone. “Mbale accounts for 10 per cent of the annual losses as a result of power theft and vandalism,” Umeme Chief Operations Officer, Florence Nsubuga, said, while addressing stakeholders and the media at the Golden Tulip Hotel today.
Further, she noted that Umeme’s efforts to bring down illegal connections in Mbale have enabled the company to cut the losses by one billion shillings in the area.
According to Ms Nsubuga, power theft and vandalism of power infrastructure is not a problem for UMEME but a societal problem that needs to be addressed by the leaders and communities.
Giving an example of Mbale, she said UMEME had to engage local leaders and their communities to have illegal connections go down, supplemented by other methods like the use of the police.
In a related development Umeme Managing Director Selestino Babungi has reduced power losses to 17.5 percent in 2017 from 38 per cent in 2005, saving the company some Shs250 billion over 12 years.
According to Mr. Babungi, the reduction in power losses is a result of continuous sensitization campaigns against illegal power connections and vandalism of company infrastructure especially in the Elgon region.
He further says the reduction of power thefts in the country will help to further bring down the unit cost of power in the country, which currently stands at Shs650 for domestic consumers.
Umeme Deputy Managing Director Sam Zzimbe, said the company intends to spend about US$1.5 billion in distribution over the next ten years as the demand for power in the country increases. In the last 12 years, UMEME bosses say the company spent US$500 million in the distribution network.
Some of the projects implemented included with US$500 million include the Moniko Substation (US$ 6.8 million), Tororo Industrial Park (US$ 1.4 million), Medium Voltage Distribution (Kibuli feeder),Construction of interconnection feeders, Rollout of pre-paid metering and automated meter reading systems and expansion of distribution zones and new customer connections to the grid.
UMEME is banking on the near completion of power projects to expand its network, the company officials said. Some of the hydropower projects include the 600MW Karuma hydropower dam, the 183MW Isimba hydropower dam which are at 62 percent and 76 per cent completion rate, respectively.
Mr Babungi says UMEME is well-placed to acquire capital for further investment in the distribution network, disclosing further that the company plans to connect all customers to pre-paid metres (YAKA) by end of the year 2019.
He says UMEME plans to provide power to the 25 industrial parks set up by government across the country for industrial development, adding that recently his team visited Mbale Industrial park on power connection related issues.
UMEME’s further investments come at the time when only 22 per cent of the population is connected to the national electricity grid despite the investment in other sources of power such as solar and thermal plants.
With ongoing investment in the generation capacity through the construction of Karuma, Isimba and other mini hydro stations, which will add over 800MW to the grid, Umeme is at the centre of ensuring effective distribution of this electricity to the end users, while ensuring attainment of the government target of electricity household access to 40 per cent by 2025
Listed on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE) and on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE), Umeme is the largest electricity distribution company in Uganda, and is mandated to operate, maintain, upgrade and expand the distribution network supply electricity to its customers and to improve efficiency within the electricity distribution system.
The company operates a 20 year electricity distribution concession effective March 2005.