Umeme stuck with 250,000 applications for free electricity connection

Umeme, the country’s electricity distributor, has said it is stuck with 250,000 applications for free electricity connection due to scarcity of funding. PHOTO/ FILE

What you need to know:

  •  Under ECP, customers pay only Shs20,000 for inspection while the government caters for the rest.

Umeme, the country’s electricity distributor, has said it is stuck with 250,000 applications for free electricity connection due to scarcity of funding.
 Mr Selestino Babungi, the Umeme managing director,  said they were unable to connect the clients.
 “On free connections, it is still a big challenge. We had a backlog of 250,000 applicants who had applied for the free connections and paid the Shs20,000 but we experienced  limited funding from government,” he said.

 Mr Babungi was in Gulu to meet the regional stakeholders across Acholi Sub-region, as well as assess the refurbishment progress at Layibi Sub-station in Gulu.
 With support from the African Development Bank, government last week launched the last-mile connectivity component under the Uganda Rural Electricity Access Project in Iganga District.
 During the event, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development handed over electricity connection accessories to Umeme to facilitate connections of 87,500 rural households.

Mr Babungi, however, said the package from government would make little impact.
 “Let’s not forget that we are currently receiving on average 1,000 applications every day and that makes the materials we received just a drop in the ocean to clear the 250,000 applications that are pending,” he added.
 Mr Babungi asked the public to avoid self-connection.
  
“We see the challenge underlying this is that, people are ending up going to connect themselves on the grid leading to safety incidences and power theft. But we are engaging the Natural Resources Committee (NRC) next week to ensure that we clear these connections.”
 Government at the end of 2018 launched Electricity Connections Policy (ECP) with the view of subsidising last mile electricity connection to connect more than 300,000 customers annually.

The project was established due to complaints by customers over high power connection fees charged by power distributors, which range from between Shs98,000 and Shs2m.
 Under ECP, customers pay only Shs20,000 for inspection while the government caters for the rest.
However, the 10-year project spearheaded by the Rural Electrification Agency hit some headwinds earlier this year after running out of money.

 The $700m (Shs2.6 trillion) project was meant to be financed by a consortium of international donors and government but, according to the policy document, some donors had committed only $80m funding at the time.
A document authored by Umeme in June 2020 revealed that the power distributor was pausing connections under ECP over failure by the government to pay $25m for 105,412 connections out of the 244,307 target valued at $57m, made by May.
 To achieve the 300,000 connections annually, Umeme had estimated a revenue requirement of $80m.

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