Thursday, September 8, 2011

Power cuts to double in Uganda despite heavy rainfall

By Walter Wafula, Daily Monitor

Power cuts are set to double in Uganda from this weekend on the back of reduced hydropower generation, despite heavy rains across the country.

The Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL) has directed the Country's main power distributor Umeme to introduce two new groups of load shedding to manage an expected deficit of at least 100Mega Watts (MW) of power.

Umeme is expected to respond to the directive starting Sunday to align its operations with the current shortfall in the water levels of Lake Victoria.

But Umeme spokesperson Charlotte Kemigyisha yesterday said discussions were ongoing with UETCL to try and find a solution to the expected longer blackouts. The new round of load-shedding follows instructions from the Directorate of Water Development (DWD) to Eskom, which runs the two main hydro-power dams in Jinja, to revise its water release levels downwards from 1,000 to 700 cubic metres.

The Directorate of Water Development (DWD) is the government agency in charge of regulating the use of water in the country. Water is used to generate up to 205 MW of hydro-power at Kira and Nalubaale power stations on the River Nile in Jinja and a cut-back to 700 cubic metres will reduce national power supply by at least 40 mega watts, UETCL said.

A well-placed source in the energy industry said the shortfall could go up to 50MW necessitating daytime load-shedding. “The deficits quoted could be worse because some power generators planned for have proven to be unreliable in the recent past,” the source said.

To avoid the current shortfall, DWD has been requested to allow Eskom to run 1,000 cubic metres of water until Bujagali Energy Limited turns on two of its power generation turbines next month.

But Eng. Mugisha-Shillingi, a director at DWD, said releasing more water to maintain current power generation levels would worsen the situation.

“There is a level at which power can be generated. If you turn on that one (at Bujagali power station) then it will just stop. It’s really a compromise,” Eng. Shillingi said in an interview yesterday.

He added that if the water release levels are maintained, Kenya and Tanzania, with which Uganda shares Lake Victoria, will protest because it will affect their levels.


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