UETCL plans emergency load shedding over floating islands

Wednesday April 22 2020

Under way: Efforts to remove the floating

Under way: Efforts to remove the floating islands that disrupted power supply last week are already under way. FILE PHOTO  

By CHRISTINE KASEMIIRE

Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL) has set an emergency load shedding schedule of 100 megawatts (MW) in the event that challenge of the floating Islands at Nalubaale dam worsens.

Speaking to Daily Monitor yesterday, Mr Valentine Katabira, the UETCL acting managing director, said he was not certain that load shedding in the country would entirely be ruled out.

“If they do away with the floating mass that is the only way you can say with certainty that you will be safe, but if the mass goes into the machines and they have to shut down the machines for cooling, then you get into the uncertain area,” he said.

As a result, he said, UETCL had put out an emergency load shedding plan of 100 megawatts in case the country loses more power generation.

This means UETCL has planned to knock off 100 megawatts of power demand in case it (power demand) exceeds supply.

For instance, if generation can only supply 500 megawatts but there is demand of 600 megawatts, UETCL would knock off 100 megawatts and ration the 500 megawatts among all the customers.

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This comes after a notice on Monday, in which UETCL said it was effecting emergency load shedding due to further deterioration of plant capabilities at Bujagali, Kiira and Eskom. Most cooling systems were out for cleaning.

According to Mr Katabira, the load shedding of 50 megawatts went on for about one hour before it was lifted.

Who will be affected?
Mr Selestino Babungi, the Umeme managing director, said yesterday that the load shedding would be rotated amongst different customers in areas of Nateete and Entebbe, among others.

“The first priority is of course to protect critical installations such as airports, hospitals, critical communication installations and then move on a rotational basis across all our customers such that the burden is shared,” he said, noting it was necessary because if not implemented, the whole system is at risk of breakdown.

Uganda last week experienced a nationwide black out after floating Islands interrupted supply at the 180 megawatts Nalubaale dam.

The situation called for intervention by Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF), Ministry of Agriculture and Uganda National Roads Authority who assembled equipment such as ferries, dump trucks and bull dozer, to clear the water weeds.

Mr George Tusingwire, the chief operations manager at Nalubaale dam said removing the floating Islands could take about two to three days.

“It will take a short time because we have a lot of equipment from government. Most of the major work is done. It is now a question of doing further cleaning of the water around the machines,” he said.

The floating Islands situation, Mr Simon Kasyate, the Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited spokesperson, said has been a wakeup call for the need for research into hydropower systems to ensure anticipatory as opposed to reactionary solutions.

Effect on tariff
Since the shutdown of Nalubaale, the country has had to look at the 183 megawatts Isimba Dam, 200 megawatts Kiira Dam, the 250 megawatt Bujagali Dam, thermal plants in Namanve, small mini hydros and solar plants for power generation.
The shutdown currently poses no threat to the price of electricity, which is preset on a quarterly basis and has already been set till June.

Nonetheless, elimination of Nalubaale dam from the country’s energy mix, if it persists, could lead to an increase in the power tariff for the next quarter.

This is because Nalubaale is the cheapest electricity source, below 2 cents thereby reducing the average cost of electricity bought from all dams.

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