Regional markets drive 16% growth in electricity demand

Monday January 04 2021
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Demand for electricity has also grown by 6 per cent, which the utility company attributes to increased numbers of people working from home. PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA

By Christine Kasemiire

Demand for electricity from the top 40 large industrialists in the country has increased by 16 per cent on account of increased regional demand, Umeme managing director, Mr Selestino Babungi has said.

Speaking to journalists during the end-of-year performance of the power distributor, Mr Babungi highlighted a recovery in electricity consumption among the large industrialists and domestic demand.

“The large industrial customers, the top 40, their demand has gone up by 16 per cent. These are Hima, Roofings and Tororo among others, their demand is going up. When we asked why, they said there has been a lot of demand from the region,” he revealed.

He added; “Those who used to import steel, cement from Pakistan or China have found it difficult so Uganda is now exporting more than it used to.”

Bank of Uganda statistics indicate that the country’s total exports grew to $419.4m in July from $386m in January before dropping to $363.8m in October.
Cement exports grew from 36,072 tonnes in January to 40,539 tonnes in October.
On domestic customers, he said demand for electricity has also grown by 6 per cent, which the utility company attributes to increased numbers of people working from home.

  10% drop in demand
However, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) which constitute medium industries and commercial customers have recorded reduced demand of 10 per cent.

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Mr Babungi said the drop could be indicative of the realities in the economy which highlight the impact Covid-19 has had on businesses which include closures, lack of demand, limited cash flows and inaccessibility to financing.

According to a recent survey conducted by Federation of SMEs, highlighting their performance in 2020, SMEs noted that there has been a big challenge of lack of demand for their products.

Demand for electricity has only recently recovered after a deep plunge during lockdown between March and April.

However, Mr Babungi noted that the company’s investment in technology was integral for continue with service delivery, during lockdown.

“Yaka has saved us during the period, when Covid-19 hit, we realised we still had 190,000 customers on postpaid. So we accelerated and moved 160,000 to Yaka to further digitise our relationship with the customer on the commercial side,” he said noting that the company has recorded 98 per cent in revenue collection target.

Vending system
The Yaka vending system which has been operational since 2011 has, however, been facing challenges including failure to remit tokens to customers.  Mr Babungi said the challenge is going to be solved by installing a new customer integrated system in 2021 which was part of the approved investments by the regulator in 2020.


Investment
Shs310 billion investment
Umeme this year has invested $83.3 million (Shs310 billion) into the network.

Among the major projects accomplished in 2020 was the Siti dam line, Tororo line, a switching station in the Mbale industrial park and upgrade of the Mbale substation.

Mr Babungi also revealed that sub stations such as Gulu, Ntinda were upgraded and a new station built in Nakawa to increase the capacity thereby addressing the growing power demand from housing developments and industrial areas in the Nakawa and Bugolobi areas.
 

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