Kampala, Uganda — Uganda’s Northern and West Nile regions have had unreliable electricity supplies limiting industrialization and energy-dependent economic activities for decades but this will soon come to an end once the construction work on the 32kV Kole-Gulu-Nebbi-Arua transmission project is completed.
The US$100million World Bank-funded project known as the Grid Expansion and Reinforcement Project (GERP) is expected to evacuate electricity from Karuma, Agago, and Nyagak hydropower dams.
The project will consist of a 289km of 132kV double circuit transmission line that runs from Kole District, through Gulu, Nebbi to Arua, construction of the new 40MVA substations at Gulu, Nebbi, and Arua, and a 132kV switch station at Kole, a development intended to not only increase the availability and efficiency of bulk electricity supply in the project areas but also link them to the national grid.
Karuma hydropower dam which is expected to produce 600MW of electricity is expected to be switched on before the end of the year while the construction of 83MW Agago and the 6.6MW Nyagak III hydropower stations are said to be behind schedule.
“Currently, the project works on the transmission line is 69% done. We have faced several challenges like the right of way land acquisition but we have been engaging stakeholders to secure a corridor of power and we are optimistic that with the support of the community, we shall be able to deliver electricity by March 2023,” said Micheal Taremwa Kananura, acting CEO at the state-owned Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL) while on an inspection tour with the new board members.
UETCL is responsible for extending the national power grid across the country to ensure the population has access to the electricity network.
The West Nile region faces an acute shortage of electricity supply. According to Electricity Regulatory Authority, West Nile particularly has a supply of about 3.5 MW against the demand of between 5 and 6 MW.
In 2003, the Government granted a concession agreement for 20 years to WENRECO to generate, distribute and sell electricity to address the power shortage in the West Nile region but was never connected to the national grid.
This prompted the government to allow Electromaxx to set up a base in the region and supplement power generation. But the electricity supply remains unstable hurting the region’s growth and development.
“Once the grid reaches West Nile, we shall surely see development in the area. For example, most hotels run on generators for 12 hours but have kept them sustainable. I believe with a reliable power supply, will spark economic growth,” Kananura said.
The Member of Parliament of Upper Madi-Okollo in Arua City Isaac Etuka said that as much as they appreciate the government and ministry of energy, the power delay has been disappointing and hurtful.
“West Nile is very poor because of lack of power. When you look at our trading centres, they are almost idle. There is no business,” he said.
President Yoweri Museveni launched the construction of the 132kV Kole-Gulu-Nebbi-Arua transmission project in 2020.