By Our Reporter
Umeme Ltd, the leading power distributor in Uganda, is stuck with over 250,000 applicants seeking free connection to the national electricity grid across the country.
In 2018, Government launched the Electricity Connection Policy – EPC with the aim of connecting 300,000 power consumers annually following complaints of high connection fees by prospective power consumers.
Under the policy, customers are required to pay 20,000 Shillings to power distributors while the government would top up the remaining fees. The move was anticipated to improve access to power, which was being marred by exorbitant connection fees ranging from between Shillings 100,000 to 2 million.
Now, the Umeme Managing Director, Selestino Babungi, says that they are distressed with over a quarter-million applicants whom they can’t connect because the Government has not honoured its obligation of providing the vital fund.
Babungi told URN in an interview that through the Rural Electrification Agency they have procured connection materials to connect only 87,000 customers against the 250,000 pending applications.
In 2020, Umeme suspended the implementation of the free connection project after accumulating unprecedented Shillings 88.9 billion in unpaid arrears by the Government for 105,412 connections out of 244,307 target, which was valued at Shillings 202.8 billion.
Despite this slowdown, in March this year, the Government announced plans to resume the free connection project estimated to cost Shillings 2.6 trillion to be jointly financed by the Government and donors.
In Gulu City, 13,000 people are connected to the national power grid. However, the demand for power connections remains high among residents and industrialists to aid the socio-economic transformation. Alfred Okwonga, the Gulu City Mayor says only 21 per cent of the 128 villages are currently connected to the national grid.
The Resident City Commissioner, Denis Odongpiny, says several residents within the outskirts of the City are petitioning his office for power connections citing insecurity.
According to the Rural Electrification Agency – REA, one of the implementing agencies for the free electricity connection program, it procured over 87,500 connection materials under the African Development Bank aid. This adds to the 2,598 connection materials already procured under the Islamic Development Bank funding to ensure countrywide connection.
In Financial Year 2020/21, the Government allocated Shillings 14.2 billion to the Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Limited – UEDCL to partly pay for already made connections and commence new connections by March 2021.
According to the Electricity Regulatory Authority – ERA, Uganda’s electricity sub-Sector has grown from Three (3) Generation Plants in 2001 to over 40 Plants. The total installed generation capacity has grown from 60 MW in 1954, 400 MW in 2000 to 1237.49 MW as of October 2020 and this capacity is expected to rise to 1837.49 MW by end of 2021.