The country will continue experiencing electricity loadshedding of about 104MW until the Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL) completes the construction of temporary structures to restore damaged transmission lines, says Okaasai Sidronius Opolot, the Minister of State for Energy.
The works are expected to be completed by Friday, November 18, 2022.
Loadshedding happens when electricity consumption is reduced by switching off the power supply to groups of customers because the entire system is at risk. This can be due to a shortage of electricity supply or to prevent transmission and distribution lines from becoming overloaded.
Over the past weekend, two 132kV transmission lines from the Jinja-based 180MW Nalubale and 200MW Kira hydropower plants were vandalized causing extensive power blackouts in central and western Uganda.
The 132kV Owen Falls-Lugogo transmission line was similarly damaged at Kivuvu village in Mukono district, leading to the collapse of four towers on Saturday, November 12, 2022.
The following day, the Owen Falls-Mukono North-Mulago transmission line was also vandalised at Nasuuti village in Mukono district leaving one tower on the ground.
In addition to the construction of temporary structures, the 220kV Bujagali-Kawanda evacuation line is temporarily being used to partly evacuate Nalubale and Kira power plants alongside Bujagali and Isimba power plants.
The 50MW Namanve thermal power plant will also be switched on as is always the case during emergencies, though it remains a much more expensive option.
Reinstating the five newly damaged transmission towers, will cost UETCL over UGX 1 billion. Annually, the country spends UGX 2 billion replacing vandalized power lines.
“This vice remains a major impediment to delivering quality and reliable power supply especially to critical sectors such as health and manufacturing. It equally increases power project development costs, frustrates efforts to expand the grid and generally slows economic growth,” said Opolot.
The economy would lose up to UGX 4 billion were the two vandalized transmission lines to remain unrestored for a week.
The minister was addressing the media yesterday about the recent countrywide power outages which the ministry blames on deliberate sabotage of transmission infrastructure.
He said the vice which in the past only happened in “isolated black spots” has grown to become “a systematic and well-coordinated organized crime syndicate”.
The ministry believes the vandalism is facilitated by the scrap dealing industry, which the government intends to intensely regulate going forward.
As a long-term remedy, the Electricity (Amendment) Act 2022, calls for more stringent penalties for vandalism-related offences including a 12-year jail sentence or a fine of UGX 1 billion or both for a vandal or anyone who receives vandalized electricity materials. It further calls for 15 years of imprisonment or a fine of UGX 2 billion or both for repeated violations.
In addition, a multi-sectoral security coordination committee led by the energy ministry has been established to intensify anti-vandalism measures.