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250,000 bulbs rot in city stores

By Vision Reporter

Added 11th October 2010 03:00 AM

OVER 250,000 energy-saving bulbs imported by the Government three years ago for free distribution are due to expire in stores as load-shedding intensifies.

OVER 250,000 energy-saving bulbs imported by the Government three years ago for free distribution are due to expire in stores as load-shedding intensifies.

By Ibrahim Kasita

OVER 250,000 energy-saving bulbs imported by the Government three years ago for free distribution are due to expire in stores as load-shedding intensifies.

The bulbs worth sh1.25b were part of the 800,000 acquired in 2007 under a $1.2m (sh2.7b) World Bank-financed power sector development programme.

However, only 550,000 of the German-made Osram bulbs were given out to electricity consumers in Kampala, Wakiso, Mukono and Entebbe.

The remaining 250,000 bulbs, which were supposed to be distributed in upcountry centres, still lie at the Uganda Electricity Distribution Company (UEDCL) stores in Lugogo, sources said. Energy experts say the bulbs have a shelf life of three years. This means they will expire this year.

An energy ministry official confirmed that the bulbs were yet to be distributed.

“It is true that the bulbs are still in the power distributor’s stores,” said James Banaabe, the ministry’s assistant commissioner for energy.

“We have been working with Umeme and the (distribution) matter was tentatively handed over to them. They should be able to explain why they have not done so,” added Banaabe.

Umeme spokesperson Charlotte Kemigyisha said they support the use of energy-saving bulbs since they bring down the consumer’s monthly bills, and the load on the grid. “We are willing to help the Government in the distribution of these bulbs, as and when they are released to us. We have so far received 20,000 units, which we started distributing in Mbarara in August,” Kemigyisha said.

However, another company official disclosed that although discussions were held with the energy ministry, the bulbs were never officially handed over to Umeme nor logistical support provided for their distribution.

“Even the stores where the bulbs are kept belong to UEDCL (the asset holding company) and not Umeme. We do not have even the keys to the stores,” said the source.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said the 20,000 bulbs released for distribution in Mbarara were to mark the energy efficiency week.

The official said the distribution process has been hampered by the distribution mechanism that necessitates customers coming to Umeme offices due to the detailed data needed on the beneficiaries for accountability purposes.

In Kampala, Wakiso, Mukono and Entebbe, Yellow Pages, a local courier firm was contracted to distribute the bulbs. Each household got three energy savers in exchange for ordinary bulbs.

The exercise, which started in January 2007, ended in April, 2007 with 550,000 energy saving bulbs distributed. The project should have spread to major up-country urban centres but stalled for unclear reasons.

World Bank, the project financiers, said their role was simply to facilitate the procurement process and not the distribution of the bulbs.

“We provided the funds and ensured that the procurement process was transparent. The issue of distribution is not with us and we are not involved anywhere,” explained Steven Shalita, the World Bank’s communication manager in Kampala.

Shalita disclosed that any remaining bulbs were supposed to be sold to the private sector at subsidised rate “as a way to prime the market for sustainable purposes.”

The decision to give free energy saving bulbs to power users came at the height of load-shedding in 2007.

It was meant to cut down power wastage, resulting from the high-wattage ordinary bulbs. The project was expected to save between 45 – 50 megawatts of electricity and indeed managed to save 30MW, energy sources said.

“These bulbs are very critical in this time of load-shedding,” said an Umeme employee.

“At least, they should be put into the market if the logistics to distribute them are not there,” added the source.

To promote the use of energy-saving bulbs, the Government scrapped the 25% import duty and the 18% Value Added Tax, thus reducing their cost by nearly half.

However, the bulbs still cost five – 10 times more than the high power-consuming ordinary bulbs. The genuine energy-saving bulbs go for between sh5,000 and sh10,000 as opposed to the ordinary bulbs which cost sh1,000.

The bulbs were procured through Dembe Enterprises, a local company owned by Kampala tycoon Karim Hirji.

The need to conserve electricity has become more critical than ever as fuel shortage has affected thermal power generation, which has been supplementing the hydro power plant in Jinja.

250,000 bulbs rot in city stores

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