Power distributor toys with idea of solar energy

Tuesday August 27 2019

A Solar Power Plant in Kabulasoke. According to

A Solar Power Plant in Kabulasoke. According to Electricity Regulatory Authority, the country’s solar energy portfolio currently stands at 50 MW. FILE PHOTO 

By Christine Kasemiire

Uganda’s main power distributor Umeme, during the second public hearing, revealed that they are contemplating over providing solar renewable energy.

“We are in pilot stages, as I speak some of our colleagues, the chief operating officer and team, we are piloting to see how we can go into the solar space,” Umeme’s managing director Selestino Babungi says.

The discussion is based on the reality that extending the grid to the whole country is sometimes more expensive and would take a longer time.

Cognisant of solar energy’s augmenting penetration, he said the solution is aiding the areas isolated from the grid, thus improving the universal power access agenda.

The power grid otherwise referred to as the transmission network length as at 2018 stood at 2569.8Km.

Solar capacity
According to Electricity Regulatory Authority, the country’s solar energy portfolio currently stands at 50 MW with the newest addition of 10MW upon commissioning of Bufulubi Power plant in Mayuge.

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Four grid connected solar power plants have been commissioned in a three-year period including 10MW Bufulubi, 10MW access solar plant in Soroti district and 10 MW Tororo solar north plant.

The 20 MW Kabulasoke solar plant in Gomba was commissioned in 2018.
Increasing growth in solar energy production is partly attributed to reduction in cost of solar technologies.

Integration
Utilities 2.0, energy access report published by Power for All, advocated for unification of power utilities and private sector decentralised renewable energy providers (off grids).

The integration is expected to push the universal access for all agenda, leaving no one in the dark.

In a publication by ESI Africa, during the Africa Utility week, Ms Kristina Skierka, Power for All chief executive officer noted that utilities and off grid power companies have worked in silos.

“We need to find a path toward universal electricity access that brings the solution providers together and leverages their strengths, while recognising our shared goal of ending poverty as quickly, affordably and sustainably as possible,” she recommended.

Model
The report notes, traditional Utility 1.0 models characterised by monopolistic, unidirectional, and silo operations that have informed power sector design in low energy access (LEA) countries, have rarely created profitable, sustainable energy companies in developing countries, nor have they ended energy poverty.

Low energy access countries can evolve 1.0 utility systems for an integrated future, using digitisation, decentralisation, and data to enable grid and non-grid energy to collaborate and maximise connections that improve quality of life.

“By leveraging digitisation and data analytics to integrate Decentralised Renewable Energy (DRE) technologies, utilities have new alternatives to grid extension, faulty transformers and unprofitable connections. In collaboration with DRE companies, utilities can find more cost-effective ways to leverage smart meters, storage and distributed generation to enable reliable, affordable universal energy access,” the report reads in part.

Going digital
The report highlights that digitised technologies such as integrated smart meters, predictive tools such as Gridwatch (which uses cell phone charging outages to predict transmission failure), and remote monitoring systems standard in many DRE products—can create an intelligent network that taps mini-grids or networked rooftop systems in case of distribution issues, transmission outages and demand response

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