Diesel-generated thermal power, while up to three times more expensive than hydro-electric power, is being used as a stopgap while we shore up our hydro-electric generation capacity.
Construction on the 250 MW Bujagali Dam started last year and it is expected to start generating power in 2011. Meanwhile, feasibility studies for the 200MW Karuma Falls dam are in high gear, with the expectation that the dam will be operational by 2012.
However, it is estimated that demand for power is doubling every nine years. So there is a risk that when these major projects are fully on line, we will still have load shedding. Current peak time demand stands at 388 MW.
We should not forget how we got into this mess in the first place. A group of self-serving politicians in cahoots with foreign funded environmentalists who found gullible accomplices in the donor community threw away the original Bujagali project.
The politicians, crying more than the bereaved, argued that the proposed 9 US cents a unit of power was too expensive for Ugandans used to 4 US cents a unit at the time. Today we pay an average of 24 US cents a unit.
Had the original Bujagali project gone on as planned, the dam would have been on line today â€” lowering our power bills considerably and ensuring that our generation capacity and our demand grew at the same rate. It is estimated that our part of the River Nile has a 2000 MW generation potential. The Government should move to remove all bureaucratic barriers in the way of the full exploitation of this potential.
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Politicians must keep off power project