Ugandans have been urged to use electricity for economic use as the country’s main power distribution firm, Umeme Limited, looks to grow demand for power.
Umeme Limited’s regional manager for western Uganda, Isaac Katewanga, has implored households to use electricity for economic activities, too. That will help to narrow the gap between Uganda’s installed power generation capacity and peak demand, and address concerns about excess power, he argued.
“Over time, our customers have more than quadrupled, from 292,000 in 2005 to 1.4 million now. However, that exponential growth is not reflected in the demand,” he said in Mityana district during an engagement with stakeholders.
While the utility’s customers numbers have increased to 1.4 million from 292, 000 over 13 years, many of the domestic consumers connected to the grid use power mainly for lighting.
Now, Katewanga says more households should consider using power for grain milling, welding, carpentry and tailoring.
“Do our people know that electricity can be used for more than just lighting? Do our people know that electricity can be used for economic activities? Many cottage industries can flourish when you use electricity, from baking to carpentry, barbershops, salons.”
Uganda had an installed generation capacity of 1,179 megawatts (MW) as of March 2019 while peak demand was 656MW, according to the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA).
Once Karuma dam is commissioned, probably at the beginning of next year, installed generation capacity will increase to 1,779MW. The 42MW Acwa dam is likely to be commissioned next year. Others such as Ayago (600MW) are to be constructed.
Demand, though, is, according to different players in the energy sector, growing by between six and 10 per cent annually.
The Umeme 2018 annual report shows that sales to domestic customers grew by just 2.4 per cent between 2017 and 2018 while sales to commercial consumers grew by 7.5 per cent.
Sales to medium industries grew 10.4 per cent, while those to large industries by 11.4 per cent and to the extra-large industries by 13.2 per cent. However, street lighting consumption dropped by 32.9 per cent over the same period most probably because many municipal authorities are using solar batteries to run street light.
To increase consumption, the government has put in place policies to encourage investors to establish factories in Uganda. For instance, it has zoned at least 22 areas in different parts of Uganda for the establishment of industrial parks.
In these parks, the government will build roads, telephone infrastructure, high voltage-power transmission lines, while private players like Umeme will build power distribution lines.
Investors who want stable power are encouraged to operate from the industrial parks such as Namanve (Kampala), Mbale, Jinja, to mention but a few. So far, 15 of the industrial parks are in operation. The other measure the government has adopted to increase consumption of power is the free electricity connection, through which distribution companies should connect 300,000 premises annually to the grid.
That, it says, will increase the consumption by households by at least 15MW annually. Households currently consume 27 per cent of the power distributed by Umeme.