- West Nile Rural Electrification Company (Wenreco) has been the sole supplier of electricity since 2003
- Nyagak III project which should have improved power supply has stalled unjustifiably
- The generator which should have provided alternative source is not running and the grid extension project isn’t progressing at a pace the people can count on either
By Oguzu Lee Denis
Maracha- As the nation gears for the Tarehe Sita celebrations, a report, Energy Access Outlook: from Poverty to Prosperity, part of the World Energy Outlook-2017 series has linked a reduction in poverty levels to universal access to affordable and clean energy.
However, for a region consisting of nine districts and home to an estimated 2.3 million people, less than two per cent of the population has access to electricity despite universal access to clean energy being recognized as a human right and ranking 7th on UN’s Sustainable Development Goals Agenda 2030.
In 2003, government gave WENRECo, a company linked to the Aga Khan without stability and affordability assurance let alone input from the region, a 20-year monopolistic concession to generate, distribute, and sell electricity in West Nile.
As part of the concession, the company is to run a 1.5 megawatt diesel fuel electric generator, part-own and operate 3.5 megawatt Nyagak I Power Station but since the execution of this concession agreement, the people of West Nile have never enjoyed the benefits of power due to the erratic supply which the regulator (ERA) doesn’t pay attention to and is continuously blamed on low water volumes without any options for energy mix as is the case elsewhere.
WENRECo’s power supply failed to meet the region’s current and future demand. This is compounded by increased new connections arising from the donor pushed West Nile Grid Extension and Rural Electrification Project which has seen more than 30 health centers, 60 schools, 250 businesses, and 6,000 households connect but without increasing supply.
Although recently, the State Minister for Energy, Eng Simon D’ujanga, explained that 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.
With power demand now outstripping supply, power users in West Nile are in acute blackout and businesses are counting losses which some experts estimate are in a tune of Shs 2 trillion. Factories have closed, jobs have been lost, and investments in the region have slowed down thus derailing the region’s economic growth.
While government has intervened to remedy acute power shortages in other places, no similar effort has been made to help the people of West Nile. For instance, in the face of acute power shortage between 2009 -2015, with government support, 20MW thermal plant and 50MW diesel generator was commissioned in Tororo by Electron Maxx as short term remedy despite cost implications.
It is on the above basis that one can only conclude and zero-down on a deliberate, well-structured arrangement to confine the sub-region to a life poverty. If that’s not it, as a remedy to the sub-region’s problem, we would want hear that;
Firstly, government issue a statement on how she intends to address the current power problems in short run and secure the future energy security of the region in long run?
Secondly, as an emergency measure, government commits to finding resources to run the 1.5MW generator in Arua town to stabilize power supply as it’s done in other places.
Thirdly, government should commit to prioritize and expedites the process of adding the region to the National Grid before 2020. And we need an assurance that government is committed to refrain from any plans of extending WENRECo’s tenure beyond concessionary period.
Without those assurances, let the nation brace for the largest peaceful demonstration in the history of this country and ruling government forget even a single vote from the region. For the writing is now on the wall: No reliable power, no votes. No grid connection, no vote.
The Writer is the MP Maracha