Friday January 20 2012

Karuma dam works to take at least 10yrs

Karuma Falls where a hydro-electric dam is to be constructed to increase power production in the country.

Karuma Falls where a hydro-electric dam is to be constructed to increase power production in the country. FILE Photo  

By NELSON WESONGA

Electricity consumers will have to wait even longer for relief from the power crisis since the 600MW Karuma dam project will take at least 10 years to complete, an energy expert from the United Kingdom has said.

The project estimated to cost $2.2b (about Shs6 trillion) will start in May and according to the original government plan, should be complete in five years, but Mr Neil Pinto, the chief executive officer of Power Planning Associates Ltd, a UK firm contracted to work on the project, Karuma would take a minimum of 10 years to complete.

“Bujagali is estimated to have cost $1b. My estimate is that Karuma will cost $2.2b. There are several engineering challenges that are going to be presented by Karuma such as long tunnels that shall have to be built,” he said.

Mr Pinto said unless government establishes new electricity plants by 2014, Ugandans would be in exactly the same position in two years that they are presently in. He proposed that government builds heavy fuel oil power station in the meantime because it can be done faster.

Mr Pinto was on Wednesday speaking in Kampala during a public dialogue organised by the Makerere University Economic Policy Research Centre brainstorm on energy sector reforms. Electricity demand is growing at 10 per cent annually whereas generation is growing at 4.7 per cent, which has partly led to power shortage and subsequent load-shedding in the country.

The chairperson of Parliament’s Committee on the National Economy, Mr Stephen Mukitale, said government had ‘over-hyped’ large hydroelectricity projects at the expense of other energy sources. He said Parliament is considering compelling citizens to use solar energy.

The proposal would require that before a residential plan is approved, it should have solar panels. He said this was meant to save the little power that is generated for other purposes.

While Energy Minister Irene Muloni said power subsidies had reached “unsustainable levels, especially given the need to invest in new generation capacity and increasing access to rural areas.”

nwesonga@ug.nationmedia.com

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