Govt to connect 110,000 under renewed free electricity policy 

Thursday March 04 2021
tech01pix

Electricity consumption is still low, which in effect makes power expensive for most Ugandans. PHOTO | COURTESY

By Christine Kasemiire

Government will this year seek to connect 110,687 households to the electricity grid after it yesterday lifted a suspension of the free Electricity Connections Policy.

Addressing a media briefing in Kampala yesterday, Energy Minister Mary Goretti Kitutu, said the free electricity connections would resume next Monday with funding from government and development partners.

“The Rural Electrification Agency has been able to procure over 87,500 connection materials under the African Development Bank funding in addition to 2,598 connection materials under the Islamic Development Bank funding phase 1,” Kitutu said, noting additional funding would be expected from government through the budgetary releases for financial year 2020/21.

Government, she said, had allocated Shs14.2b to Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Limited (UEDCL) and small service providers to partly pay completed connections as well as commence new connections by March 8. 

At least 110,687 households are expected to be connected. 

 Umeme, the country’s largest power distributor, is expected to make the bulk of the connections with 87,500 households with majority focus on operations outside Kampala, Jinja and Entebbe districts taking 60,000 metres. 20,000 metres will be dedicated to Kampala, Jinja and Entebbe.

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 Mr Stephen Ilungole, the Umeme media relations manager, said yesterday the programme is another opportunity to serve customers on top of serving those willing to fund their connection costs.

 “There are slightly over 250,000 customers who have applied for free connections and have waited for 150 days. The 87,500 beneficiaries will be selected from these customers on a first-come-first-serve basis,” he said.

UEDCL, which holds the second highest target connections of 12,579, has received 2000 metres which are currently undergoing quality check at Uganda National Bureau of Standards. 

Mr Jonan Kiiza, the UEDCL spokesperson, said they expect to receive Shs6b from the Shs14.2b while the rest will be shared among smaller service providers.

“We expect [to get] 1,600 metres by close of the month to kick start operations,” he said, noting connections will be around its eight service territories.

 Other small service providers expected to make connections include Kilembe Investments, Pader Abim Community Multipurpose Electricity Cooperative Society, West Nile Rural Electrification Company Limited and Kalangala Infrastructure Services.

 The Electricity Connection Policy was first implemented in November 2018 but was later suspended in December 2020 after government failed to secure funds to pay service providers.

 Over 240,000 customers had been connected in the two years despite a target of 300,000 households annually and a long term ambitious goal of achieving 60 per cent access to grid electricity by 2027.

Currently, access to grid stands around 27 per cent.

 Service providers, before suspending the programme were demanding government through Rural Electricity Agency (REA) Shs103.4b of which Umeme claims about $23m (Shs84.2b).

According to Illungole, the AfDB programme is independent and the old debt still remains.

 Whereas under the old contract Umeme had been procuring materials and making connections and later billing REA, the new arrangement will require REA to purchase material which it passes on to Umeme for connections.

The new arrangement, it should be noted, will only cater for no pole connections.

Ms Kitutu said the new move will eliminate backlog of no pole connections by small service providers including UEDCL and 42 per cent for those under Umeme.

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