Ten years ago, electricity customers were about 200,000, today with the diversification of the sector, customers have increased, but the electricity supply has failed to meet the demand. Joyce Nyakato had an interview with Eriasi Kiyemba, the UETCL chief executive officer and below are excerpts.
Qn: What is the electricity reform industry in Uganda?
The power sector reform allowed for the split of UEB into three separate bodies to generate (Uganda Electricity Generation Company Ltd) that after concessioned servcies to Eskom (U) Ltd for 20 years, transmission (Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL), 100% owned by the Government and distriibution business (Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Limited (UEDCL) which concessioned to Umeme (U) Ltd for 20 years.
The objective of these reforms was to create a neutral ground for all players, attract potential investors in the sector and also attain effeciency in service delivery.
Qn: What exactly is trhe mandate of UETCL?
UETCL is a public limited liability Company owned by the finance minister and the Minister of Finance in charge of privatisation. It has the operational mandate that is divided into the single buyer business and transmission system operator.
It undertakes bulk power purchases and sales, import and export of energy, operation of the high voltage transmission grid and plays the national system operator role. The system operations entails demand forecast, where we determine the power supply, demand and forecast in the future and disseminate that information.
Qn: What has UETCL achieved in the last 10 years since the unbundling?
What the sector did in 46 years cannot be compared to what we have done in the last 10 years. The sector has managed to double the customer base which is a very big achievement.
The transmission network is expanding, and we have almost completed the Bujagali project to evacuate power from the Bujagali 250MW hydropower plant in Jinja to the Kawanda substation.
As a single buyer UETCL has negotiated Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with existing and new independent power producers (IPPs) to enable evacuation of the power from the different generation sites to the distribution centres.
The company has embarked on several projects to improve and modernise the transmission system, increase substation capacities for reliability and flexibility to meet the load demand for both the local and export markets.
There has been line rehabilitation, extension and refurbishment of substations to improve reliability and quality of power supply.
The SCADA system has been upgraded to the 33kV substations in the Central and Eastern regions, to supervise, monitor and dispatch power supply and reduce on the outage.
Qn: What is your take on the current acute power-crisis?
The high tariffs, loadshedding, inadequate generation, will be history by end of December .
It is believed that during the unbundling of UEB you inherited a debt, how have you dealt with it?
The rehabilitation of Kiira power station, allowed some loans in the UEB $150m which was invested.
The debt was split into the distributing, generation, and transmission electricity utilities. The debt is one of the areas that has fastened the tariff because we have to service it. We are agitating for the Government to remove it from our balance sheet such that it is not factored into our tariff.
Qn: Will the Bujagali construction bring the tariff down?
Either yes or no. It will make the tariff go down because it will phase out the expensive thermal generation. If everything remains the same, tariffs ought to go down. However, we are talking of 10-12% having power by 2016.
We still have a target to connect 90% of the population which needs a huge investment and the new transmission lines to construct.
Qn: Will the generation of the Bujagali dam curb the drastic load shedding?
It will definitely manage the loadshedding because that plant is going to more than double the current generation at Kiira and Nalubaale power stations. At peak the demand is 450MW yet the maximum generation is 313MW leaving a deficit of 137MW.
Kiira and Nalubale on average generate 170MW, and at peak 210MW. Bujagali dam will, therefore, double the capacity. It means during the day we shall be generating an average of 350-450MW from both Owenfalls and Bujagali complex.
Qn: What are your future plans?
Our future plans include construction of Namanve south, Mirama Hills substations to provide supply to Kampala areas and for regional interconnection respectively, Karuma-Kawanda 400kV, Bujagali-Kawanda 220kV- Completed, Bujagali- Tororo-Kenya 220kV, Kawanda-Mutundwe 132kV, Kawanda- Masaka 220kV, Masaka-Mutukula-Mwanza 220kV, Masaka-Mbarara 132kV, Mbarara North- Nkenda- Fort Portal 132kV, Mbarara- Kagitumba 132/110kV, Kaisotonya-Fort Portal-
UETCL buys and markets power-UETCL 10th Anniversaary supplement.