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The government says the ongoing construction of the 250 megawatt Bujagali hydro power project will have it's turbine commissioned in October 2011, increasing installed generation capacity from the current 550 megawatts to about 880 megawatts of electricity in 2012 when the dam is fully completed.

The minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development Syda Bbumba said in her 2010/11 budget presentation to parliament that feasibility studies for the engineering design for the 700 megawatts Karuma hydro power dam in northern Uganda and the 100 megawatts Isimba hydro power project will also be completed.

"Our power supply needs to be in tandem with the growing demand as higher growth rates translates into higher levels of demand for electricity," she told parliament adding that in the short run, thermal power generation will continue to mitigate the hydro power shortages and the government will step up the generation capacity in the long-run.

The minister said the government will in the 2010/11 financial year, complete the upgrading of 132 KV Tororo-Oluyo-Lira and Mutundwe-Entebbe transmission lines plus the construction of the 220KV Bujagali-Kawanda-Mutundwe lines and the 132 KV Mbarara-Nkenda, Nkenda-Mputa lines.

Other transmission lines cited in the budget are the Mbarara-Mirama, Masaka-Mwanza, Jinja-Tororo-Lessoe, Kawanda-Masaka, Karuma-Lira, Kaiso Tonya-Fortportal-Nkenda, Opuyo-Moroto, Karuma-Olwiyo and Mbale-Nakapiripirit-Moroto.

In addition,construction of the regional inter-connection of Bujagali-Tororo-Lessos (Kenya), Mbarara-Mirama-Birembo (Rwanda), Masaka-Mwanza (Tanzania) and Nkenda-Beni-Rutshuru and Beni-Bunia (DRCongo) will also be undertaken.

In a related development, Umeme, the national power distributor company, is seeking permission from the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) to charge domestic consumers a flat rate in order to reduce power losses by 3 percent, lower tariffs and encourage consumers to clear their bills regularly.

The company said the new proposal would charge domestic consumers a standard fee of 12,000 shillings for consumers who use between zero and 50 units of electricity per month and users would pay 26,000 shillings whether they consume all the units or not while above 75 units,a consumer would pay an extra 380.6 shillings per unit.

However, consumers objected to the flat rate proposals during a public hearing convened by the Electricity Regulatory Authority claiming the proposal was not pro-poor and would restrain new electricity connections and affect the rural electrification programme.

One of the participants said the motive was aimed at maximizing revenue for Umeme and cautioned that the company cannot charge people for what they have not consumed since approving such a proposal would cause dissatisfaction among the electricity consumers.

The company however, insists that the flat rates would help their clients budget better for electricity and reduces losses, adding that the system would also nurture a paying culture and improve revenue collection which would enable it provide better services.

Presently, a poor domestic power consumer who has no electric appliances that consume power in his home uses about 15 units and pays less than 5,000 shillings every month but if the new billing is approved, each household would pay at least 12,000 shillings per month even if it does not consume power that month.

Uganda is reported to have one of the highest tariffs in the region and the prices are categorized as domestic, street lighting, commercial and industrial consumers.

The country has in the past few years been experiencing severe power rationing due to a drop in water levels of lake Victoria caused by drought, although power rationing has reduced to minimal levels following the temporary generation of thermal power.


Geoffrey Muleme