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Government turns to thermal power again

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Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited managing director

Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited managing director Erias Kiyemba addresses a press conference in Kampala yesterday. Photo by Abubaker Lubowa. 

By NELSON WESONGA

Posted  Tuesday, December 17   2013 at  02:00

In Summary

The Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited says despite the power being expensive, the move is to offset an impending shortage of hydro power during the upcoming dry season.

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Kampala- Thermal power could be added to the national grid from January next year, a year since Uganda did away with thermal power generation.

This means the government will choose between agreeing to a request by power distributor Umeme to increase the end-user tariffs by 10 per cent and subsidising the power consumers.

Eng Erias Kiyemba, the chief executive officer of the Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL), said with the onset of the dry season in January, it would necessitate the use of thermal electricity.

“January to March is a dry season. So the water in the reservoirs might decline. That would surely necessitate the use of thermal [electricity]. You know these thermals are very expensive. If need arises, we will have to run them since load shedding is worse than paying the price of thermal,” Eng Kiyemba said at a press conference in Kampala yesterday.

The Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) early this year, directed UETCL not to purchase thermal power from the two remaining heavy fuel oil plants, Jacobsen and Electromaxx, of which each has a 50-megawatt capacity.

ERA argued then that it would be unwise to use thermal electricity because electricity consumers could not afford the cost of thermal power.

Jacobsen charges $0.27 (Shs675) for each unit whereas Electromaxx charges $0.40 (Shs1,000) per unit compared to Bujagali Energy Limited’s $0.12 (Shs300) and Eskom Ltd’s $0.10(Shs250) for each unit.
The thermal plants are currently on standby mode.

Power demand
Progress: At least 32 renewable energy plants are to be commissioned within the next three years.Altogether, they will add 125MW to the national grid.
Overwhelming demand: However, because constrained demand is increasing by 50MW annually whereas generation is growing by about 40MW, Uganda would have to fast track other power projects. Failure to do so would mean the country could revert to load shedding.

The numbers

Shs300: Amount charged for each unit by Bujagali Energy Limited. Eskom Ltd charges Shs250 for each unit.

Shs1,000: Amount charged for each unit by heavy fuel oil plant Electromaxx Jacobsen charges Shs675.

nwesonga@ug.nationmedia.com