Higher Lake Victoria boosts Uganda’s electricity

Rains have rescued Lake Victoria from its lowest water levels since 1923, enabling Uganda to boost hydroelectric power, but blackouts are likely to continue, the minister of state for energy said.

The east African country of 27 million people has suffered power shortages over the last three years as the 200-MW Kiira and 180-MW Nalubaale hydropower plants on the Victoria Nile near the lake struggled to keep pace with demand rising by 8 percent a year.

Last year, a fall in lake levels after a drought cut power production to less than half Uganda’s generating capacity. (HNN 5/11/07)

“We have had good rains since then, which helped power generation,” Deputy Energy Minister Simon D’Ujanga said June 26. “The water level has been steadily rising, but it is still not adequate.”

He said October 2006 lake levels hit 10.4 meters, the lowest since 1923, but a wetter-than-average rainy season had brought them back up to 11.3 meters. This boosted power production to 150 MW from 120, which should reduce outages.

“It’s going to impact on load shedding but with demand growing at this rate, it’s like chasing a shadow,” he said.

Uganda budget allots US$74.3 million for hydropower

Uganda’s power crisis dominated Finance Minister Ezra Suruma’s budget this month, with big allocations for thermal and hydroelectric plants. He unveiled plans to spend 211 billion shillings (US$131.8 million) on tackling a crippling power crisis that has hurt growth through blackouts and increased business costs.

“Investment in energy … is critical for improving our output,” Suruma said June 14. “The current shortfall in energy supply continues to hamper out economy … (and) competitiveness.”

Plans to boost the nation’s aging energy infrastructure included 119 billion shillings (US$74.3 million) for hydropower.

The World Bank approved US$360 million in loans and guarantees for construction of the 250-MW Bujagali hydroelectric project and a 100-kilometer transmission line in April. Additionally, the European Investment Bank approved 100 million euros (US$135.4 million) and the African Development Bank approved US$110 million for the project, also on Uganda’s Victoria Nile River.

However, Bujagali, where construction is just beginning, is not expected to come on line until 2011. (HNN 6/6/07) In the meantime, much of Uganda’s budget allocation will go to thermal power to mitigate the power shortfall. In May, the World Bank approved another US$425 million in credit agreements including interim power sector improvements paving the way for Bujagali.

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