By Ronald Kalyango
The government has intensified a campaign to encourage communities to form Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies (SACCOs) to manage the country’s electricity distribution networks in rural areas, a top official has said.
Gabriel Hatega, a board member of the Rural Electrification Agency revealed this during a recent tour of rural electrification projects in Kyegegwa, Kyenjojo and Kasese districts.
“We have demonstrated this model in two districts and the results are noticeable, we want more cooperatives to be formed to manage the different power line networks which have been constructed,” explained Hatega.
He said cabinet recently approved a 10-year rural electrification strategy and plan (2013-2022), designed to increase electricity access in rural areas from the current 7% to 26% in 2022. A 50% target has been planned for 2030 while universal access in 2040.
Hatega, however, said national access to electricity has increased from 5% in 2001 to 14% in 2013 with a targeted 40% in 2022 while 80% target has been planned to be achieved in 2030.
To achieve their targets, he says the country has been divided into 14 service territories aimed at attracting more concessionaires to operate electricity lines constructed by government under the rural electrification arrangement.
“We want more service providers to help operate the constructed lines in rural areas. We shall give them certain conditions and this will form the basis to renew their contracts,” said Hatega.
So far there are three cooperative organisations in Bundibugyo, Pader and Kyegegwa districts managing electricity distribution lines in their respective areas.
“We want more cooperatives to manage electricity power networks using the cooperative model,” he explained.
The Bundibugyo Energy Cooperative Society Ltd (BECS), the first to manage electricity distribution, maintenance of power lines and managing revenue from consumers, has 1,700 registered members out of which 1,500 have been connected on the national grid.
The manager of Kyegegwa rural electricity co-operative society Ltd; Charles Matovu informed the team that they boast of 466 registered members while 1,448 connections have been registered to date since last year.
He, however, complained of the continued vandalism of the transformers. In other areas like Kyegegwa town, Butunduzi, Kakabara, Nabingoola the transformers are overloaded.
“During the process of constructing the power line, a number of people’s properties were destroyed while creating the right of way for the power line. Since then, community members have become hostile to our staff,” he complained.
The chairperson of the cooperative, Musa Swaibu said consumers use a prepaid electricity billing system which is somehow cost effective.
Swaibu explained that the program had empowered ordinary citizens to take charge of cost-friendly electricity management schemes and will increase efficiency and coverage of power across the country.
REA’s communications officer; Pamela Kusimba, however, challenged the managers of the cooperatives to provide solar equipments to people who can’t access electricity on a loan scheme basis.
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