Shortage of electricians stifles rural connectivity

Ms Shira Bayigga Mukiibi hands over a packet of briquettes to Hans Peter Christophersen in Kampala recently. PHOTO BY STEPHEN OTAGE

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Training. A centre is being put up in Jinja to address the shortage of engineers.

KAMPALA. A Norwegian energy expert has advised government to train Ugandans to manage the energy projects currently under construction because the current shortage is affecting electricity connections.
Speaking at a networking event for renewable energy operators last week in Kampala, Mr Hans Peter Christophersen, the counsellor trade and energy at the Norwegian embassy, said last year, government failed to connect 5,000Kms of electricity lines under the rural electrification programme because there is a shortage of local electricians to handle such projects.

“We need electrical engineers to operate the stations, transmission lines and transformer stations which require a lot of skilled people as we saw in western Uganda in Kisoro-Kabale and in the north in Gulu area,” Mr Christophersen said, citing examples of areas that have got electricity connected to schools, hospitals and other institutions but under difficult conditions. “We did not have competent local people to handle procurement for the project which was supposed to have installed 7,000 kms of electricity lines; we only managed 2,000kms,” he said.

Skills shortage
Ms Shira Bayigga Mukiibi, the manager Renewable Energy business incubator, the organisers of the event, said renewable energy projects are failing to take off because there is a shortage of technical skills yet there are abundant sources of energy such as solar, biogas and mini-hydro stations that can be utilised with available technology and funding.

“We have a lot of biomass from agriculture from which to generate electricity for as long as you have waste so we are looking for more partnerships to develop the business ideas that can develop the renewable energy sector,” she said.
He said for as long as the entrepreneurs understand how the systems work, they will generate anything between 32kilowatts to 20megawatts of clean energy which has already been demonstrated in plants in Nwoya, and Gulu districts and Muduuma village in Mpigi District which are using maize cobs to generate electricity.

Training personnel
Dr Harisson Mutikanga, the chief executive officer Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited, said it is the reason they are constructing a training centre in Jinja to address the gap in skilled electrical engineers and artisans to handle the plant operations.

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