8 October 2012 – Uganda’s West Nile rural electrification project targets the electrification of 6,000 households, 250 businesses, 60 schools and 30 health centres in the next two years, in an area that has no access to grid power.
Following a competitive selection process in 2003, a concession for generation, distribution and sale of electricity in West Nile region was awarded to the West Nile Rural Electrification Company (WENRECo) for 20 years. It set up a 1.5MW heavy-fuel thermal plant to provide electricity to West Nile. It is also the operator of the 3.5MW hydropower plant on the River Nyagak.
The West Nile investment programme budgeted at US$53 million is jointly financed by the government of Uganda, WENRECo, German Development Bank KfW and the Energy Facility Pooling Mechanism. The project covers the area of Uganda lodged between the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and the west of River Nile, where about 2.3 million peoplelive in relative isolation from the rest of the country. Nowhere in Uganda is diesel and petrol more expensive than in West Nile. The national power grid does not reach the northwest of Uganda, and power from generators is available only to a few and only for a few hours a day.
Ronald Ssegawa, the undersecretary in the Ugandan ministry of energy and mineral development, says, “We want to make sure that there is enough supply and then later focus on distribution and connectivity. What we have in West Nile region is suppressed demand, and sooner than later, you will see the demand for power skyrocketing.” Thegovernment plans to connect Packwach, Zombo, Koboko, Maracha, Yumbe, Moyo and Adumani districts, and this will raise demand.
There are 95 health centres of level III and above and 170 secondary schools in West Nile region. However, only 10 health centres and 10 schools are connected to electricity. “We shall provide free connection in form of subsidies to all schools, hospitals and district headquarters,” Kabagambe-Kaliisa, the rural electrification agency board chairman says. He adds that plans are afoot to construct 33 kV and 11 kVdistribution lines from Nebbi to Packwach, Parombo to Panyum, Paidha to Vura and Arua to Koboko, to improve power supply to the region.
By extending power supply to poor households, the project will reduce dependence on short-term diesel generators with high fuel costs. Households will be encouraged to use energy-efficient and saving light bulbs.