Karamoja Sub-region gropes in   the dark as electricity lies idle

Engineers conduct maintenance and installation works at Layibi substation in June 2020. The consumption of electricity in Karamoja Sub-region has remained significantly low despite government’s initiative to invest in heavy electricity infrastructure in the area. Photo | File

What you need to know:

  • On July 9, the Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL) powered on the 132kV Opuyo-Moroto line and associated substations that traverse Soroti, Amuria, Katakwi, Napak, and Moroto districts.

The consumption of electricity in Karamoja Sub-region has remained significantly low despite government’s initiative to invest in heavy electricity infrastructure in the area, Daily Monitor has learnt.

On July 9, the Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL) powered on the 132kV Opuyo-Moroto line and associated substations that traverse Soroti, Amuria, Katakwi, Napak, and Moroto districts.

The transmission line covers 162km of double circuit and comes along with a new substation in Moroto Municipality. This pushed the total electricity power supply in the region from less than 20MW to at least 80MW.

However, Mr Jonan Kiiza, the Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Limited (UEDCL) spokesperson, said whereas the Moroto substation is the company’s game changer in solving unreliable power supply in the region, consumption is quite low.
“Current power reliability is 99 percent but less than two percent of the total 80MW is being used,” he said in an interview.

He added: “Most homesteads in the region are not permanent and that means there is little demand by clients looking to be connected to the grid. We also have a lapse in the free electricity connection due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which caused a suspension of all activities under Rural Electrification Programme (REP),” he said.
According to UEDCL, there are a total of 6,690 clients served under domestic, commercial medium voltage, and street lighting tariffs.

In 2013, the sub-region was connected to the grid although it was through very long grid lines which later resulted in significant power loss, load shedding, among others.
“The only way to curb those challenges was to establish Opuyo and Moroto substations. Before the Moroto substation was commissioned, the network used to have five feeders, Opuyo-Katakwi-Aleklek (167k), Sironko-Nakalpririt-Amudat, Moroto Town (325km), Keri-Bukwo-Kiswam, among others,” Mr Kiiza said.

Mr Robert Kasande, the Energy ministry permanent Secretary, said: “The electricity power boost in the Karamoja region seeks to improve power capacity and reliability in Karamoja region. ”
“We ask the region to take advantage of the increased capacity of power supply brought about by this project. The power should not only be used for lighting but also to support the much needed small, medium and large industries to spur development,” he added.

The 132kV Opuyo-Moroto line project including the construction of distribution power lines under REP was executed with funding from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) at $103m (approximately Shs365b).
Recently, Energy minister Ruth Nankabirwa said government is considering exporting the idle electricity to neighbouring countries.

“Because we don’t consume all the power and because for us (government) we need the money, we will serve our neighbours South Sudan, we will export our electricity there just like we have even been exporting to Kenya through Tororo,” she said.

But Mr Kiiza is hopeful that the idle electricity in the region is a blessing to the people of Karamoja.
“The idle power is a good problem because investors, whose numbers are increasing everyday, need power the most. Also because Karamoja is rich in mineral wealth, we believe at some point we may need more than 80MW because we have so many industries coming up there,” he said.

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