- Wenreco supplies power to the West Nile districts of Zombo, Nebbi, Pakwach, Maracha, Koboko and Yumbe with overshoot demand of about 6 megawatts compared to the current supply of 3.5 megawatts from Nyagak power dam
- The region relies on power from only one source of hydro dam-Nyagak in Zombo district
- The high demand has created intermittent power supply with more consumers remain unconnected to electricity
- Wenreco signed a 20-year concession and started supplying power for 18 hours from a generator until 2012 when Nyagak dam was completed
By Our Reporters
West Nile- As one moves in the usually bustling towns of Arua, Nebbi, Paidha, Koboko, Yumbe and Pakwach, there is visibly a sign of despair, frustration as business activities are no more.
The air is filled with the damning sounds of generators as some business men struggle to operate on the expensive generators. Those who cannot bear the cost of repairs, fueling of the generators have closed their premises for fear of losses.
The economic driver-electricity-is on a shut down in West Nile with only about four hours of intermittent supply in a day. Power is predominantly supplied by West Nile Rural Electrification Company (Wenreco), an Aga Khan owned Company running the 3.5 Megawatt Nyagak power dam.
The power crisis has not affected businesses but also the health centers and hospitals that heavily rely on Wenreco are finding difficulty in operating efficiently especially in Theatres and Blood Banks.
A metal fabricator in Nebbi town Mr Alfred Okumu says the current supply in the region cannot allow competitive business and if possible government should get an alternative means for connecting the West Nile people with national grid to solve the problem of insufficient power supply in the region.
“We are poor not because we were born poor but because we have insufficient power supply in the region that’s why our business is failing to compete nationally.”
He adds that many people have been kicked out of welding because they cannot afford to by themselves standby generators which calls for government intervention for insufficient power supply in the region.
The Chairman Uganda National Chamber of Commerce, Mr Jackson Atima, said: “Over ten grinding mill owners closed their business premises in the past six days in Arua, metal fabricators, salon operators, Malaika water and bread manufacturers are finding difficulty operating on generators, secretarial bureaus, health centers are experiencing great shut down. This has affected the economy of individuals and revenue for the districts.”
Atima said they are organising a mass demonstration across the region if Wenreco is still allowed to provide intermittent power supply.
“Are we not part of Uganda not to be connected to the national grid? With the coming in of Karuma dam, we still see no power lines being connected to West Nile. This is suspicious that we may be frustrated to grow economically.”
In the early 1990s when the districts of Arua, Nebbi and Moyo were supplied with power from 7pm to 10 Pm by defunct Uganda Electricity Board. As a result, Seven Hill Adrikos company closed down mainly due to intermittent power supply, Nile Foam Mattress closed down.
The President of Forum for Development of Greater Nebbi, an NGO, Mr Emillio Odongo, asked: “What is the next immediate medium and long term solution of power to us? To be honest, we cannot say we wait for 2020 for Karuma power to save us. Who will compensate the businesses losing revenue and livelihood from now till then? A welder who earns Shs 100,000 per day is now stranded. Who will compensate such and how does one clear loans based on lost businesses?”
During a consultative meeting at Leosim Hotel in Nebbi town on Tuesday, the MP for Ayivu County, Mr Bernard Atiku, said West Nile region has suffered for long due to lack of power since independence.
“For the past 15 years Wenreco has done has a disservice by only supplying us with darkness yet they are milking the poor people of west Nile and now what we want is to transit to something else apart from Wenreco and the alternative is not solar,” Bernard said.
Responding to the power crisis, the General Manager for Wenreco, said there are plans to purchase extra generation of power from Kuluva hospital and solar power from Radio Pacis. “We only rely on 3.5 Mw whose capacity has been outstripped by demand especially at peak periods. This has caused increased load shedding. The Company hopes that Nyagak III construction would meet the failure demand from 2018 but this plant hasn’t even reached financial close.”
The State Minister for Energy, Eng Simon D’ujanga, said the region is ear marked to benefit from $100 million transmission project funded by World Bank which is being undertaken by the government to ensure there is reliable power supply in the regions which is being affected by insufficient power supply.
The projects include the 400kv Karuma-Olwiyo transformation line with substation at Olwiyo, 132kv Lira transmission line and 132kv Kole-Gulu-Nebbi-Arua transmission line with sub stations in Kole, Gulu, Nebbi and Arua districts and 33kv short lines to interconnect with existing power distribution network.
D’Ujanga said government has a strategy to install a 20 megawatt solar power, resume and expedite construction work at Nyagak III mini hydro power project this year with the work expected to be completed by mid-2021.