In 1995, a few years after the economy had been liberalised, the government interested private players in the power sector to build on the sole generation capacity of the then Owen Falls Dam and boost aptitude of the then Uganda Electricity Board (UEB).
The economy was picking up pace from the spoils of ensuing wars and industrialisation was in the take-off stage.
The drive although hailed at the time, was kept on paper until the enactment of the 1999 Electricity Act when private sector inclusion was provided.
The government then hired a US consultant, Kennedy and Donkin, to draw a hydro-power master plan; which studied several hydro power sites along River Nile—namely Ayago 1 and 2, Kamdini, Bujagali and Karuma, among others.
The plan, a copy of which has been seen by this newspaper, recommended that the government should first embark on Bujagali because it was affordable and feasible.
What followed were back and forth verbal skirmishes over the construction of the hydro-power dam.
The 250MW dam was finally commissioned in 2012.
Works on the other projects like Karuma and Ayago, which according to government are both 600MW, are yet to start but there are projections that they should be on board by 2018.
Energy official’s view
Ministry of Energy officials insist the projects will sustain the country’s growing industrialisation.
That said, Umeme, the sole electricity distributor, following a Parliamentary recommendation to cancel its contract for incompetence.
Umeme, on the other hand, blames the power transmitter, Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL) and the insufficient generation from Eskom.
Statistics from the industry regulator, Electricity Regulatory Authority indicate electricity demand increases by 50 per cent per annum.
Current local demand stands at 500MW and total generation is 850MW.
However, actual generation stands at 535MW at peak hours; 400MW at shoulder and 350MW at off peak.
Industrialists have re-echoed concerns that current electricity supply cannot support business and that tough times lie ahead if government does not develop an immediate plan.
So, what next as the country waits for the Karuma and Ayago power projects?
State minister for Energy Simon D’Ujanga told Prosper magazine that government plans to revamp old lines and double the length of the current power grid as listed projects get underway.
In giving context to this plan, the Uganda Electricity Transmissions Company Limited’s head of communications, Kenneth Otim, in an e-mail exchange noted that works on the plan are already ongoing.
“The company has managed to rehabilitate the transmission lines (Mutundwe-Kabulasoke 132 Kilo Volt restringing), refurbished and expanded substations (17 sub-stations) as well as increased transformer capacity (all of them increasing the capacity from 10/15MVA to 30/40MVA),” he said. “This is to improve on the quality and reliability of power supply.”