By Patson Baraire
ISHASHA Hydro Power Station in Kanungu has improved electricity supply by 6.6MW after engineers successfully switched it on to the main grid on Friday.
â€œWe have successfully tested the dam. We hope to officially commission it soon because the testing is now over,â€ said Eng. Nihal Samaratinga, who flew in from Sri-Lanka to supervise the technical commissioning.
Owned by Eco-Power, a Sri-Lankan firm, the project works started in 2008.
Samaratinga told the Kanungu deputy resident district commissioner, Juuko Kasiita, that the project provided the locals with casual job opportunities, boosting their livelihoods.
Kasiita observed that the additional supply would lessen the burden of power shortage.
Uganda has doubled electricity production in a decade, a situation that has tremendously reduced load-shedding, which slowed social and economic progress.
The country boasts of 590MW of installed generation capacity compared to 280MW 10 years ago.
â€œWe adopted a new strategy of tackling electricity demand ahead instead of the old approach of chasing demand forecasts from behind,â€ Hilary Onek, the energy minister, explained recently.
â€œThis has through attracting local, foreign, public and private investors in the energy sector yielded dividends.â€
However, the current actual output is 410MW compared the demand of 434MW.
This means that there is still a deficit of 24MW to break-even power supply-demand situation.
The past few years have been difficult for consumers after the tail-end of the long drought of 2004/07 seasons meant the supply depended on diesel power thermal generators.
The good news is that power losses have also reduced to 30% from the 38% five years ago.
â€œThere is need to address system losses and reduce tariffs through re-negotiating Umeme allowed losses,â€ Benon Mutambi, the acting ERA boss, said.
Uganda is set for a major leap towards tackling crippling electricity supply shortage.
Down the river from Nalubaale and Kiira, the multi-billion dollar Bujagali hydropower dam should be bringing in its first 50MW in November 2011.
There will also be other small hydropower stations that will provide more than 50MW.
These include Bugoye (8.3MW), Hydromax Buseruka (9MW), Ishasha Ecopower (6.5MW) and mpanga (18MW).
Construction of the 700MW Karuma hydropower project is expected to start this year.
This is seen as one of the high priority projects in the five-year national development plan that among others aims at ensuring cheap power supply security.
There are four projects under construction and two licensed but yet to begin construction, while 23 permits have been issued for project feasibility studies.
In the recent past, with investors responding with enthusiasm to the power shortage in the country, many have approached the authority for an investment opportunity.