Kampala: As the construction of Karuma, Isimba and other mini hydro stations come to a close, electricity distributor company Umeme says it is aggressively aligning its investments worth over US $560 million to increase access, readiness for increasing generation and the contentious pricing of the end-user tariffs.
According to Umeme Managing Director, Selestino Babungi, the company is at the centre of ensuring effective distribution of this electricity to the end users, while ensuring attainment of the Government target of achieving electricity household access to 40 per cent by 2025.
He says over US $565 million worth of investments has been injected to necessitate the expansion of the network, leading to the refurbishment of 21 sub-stations, construction of several new substations in Namugongo in Kira Municipality, Moniko to serve the Lugazi and Iganga industrial customers and Nagongera to stabilize domestic and industrial supply in the eastern region and Nyakesi substation to boost industrialization in Tororo.
“In anticipation of the above load growth from Karuma and Isimba, we have developed a network asset investment plan to address the distribution network capacity, improve supply reliability, and replace ageing assets and technology to improve the grid efficiency,” he says.
The company’s investments are in line with government ambition of increasing electricity penetration from current 23 per cent to 40 per cent of households by 2025, coupled with the projected increase in effective generation capacity from the current 650MW to over 1,600MV by 2020, when the new hydro plants come on board.
Through the peri-urban programme, an on-going World Bank funded project through the Ministry of Energy and Mineral development, the utility focuses on connecting customers with 5 kilometer radius along Kawanda-Masaka 132kv transmission line. Last year a total of 4,623 households were connected to the grid.
He says the electricity industry registered maximum demand of 597.4MW in 2017 compared to 557.4MW in 2016, reflecting a growth of 7.2 per cent. Reports also indicated that electricity sales grew by 7.5 per cent in 2017 compared to 4.4 per cent in 2016, according to the company statistics.
“The company registered 8 percent growth in sales to industrial customers compared to 5.2 per cent in 2016, underpinned by the improved performance of Uganda’s economy and improved external market conditions in the neighboring countries” Babungi added.
Further explaining that necessary electricity distribution infrastructure is being put in place to support the industrial growth and to improve supply reliability in areas where different industrial parks are being set-up, Babungi says: “Continuous investment in the grid ensures power efficiency, reliability, safety and ability to evacuate and distribute increased generation capacity whilst improving the lives of Ugandans.”
Umeme says it has also participated in the Inter-institutional Committee on Power Sector Planning which included Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA), Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL), Rural Electrification Authority (REA) and Ministry of Energy with the objective to develop an integrated sector network development plan from transmission to distribution that aligns to the growth in demand and the increase in new generation capacity.