New power connection rate is a response to those who can afford – Energy PS Kasande

Uganda's Energy Ministry stops receiving hard-copy applications for mineral rights
Ministry of Energy Permanent Secretary Robert Kasande

Kampala, Uganda |  URN | A group of organisations advocating for good energy sector performance, have threatened to drag the government to court unless it reverses the decision to suspend the free Electricity Connection Policy [ECP].

On Wednesday 9th, the Electricity Regulatory Authority [ERA] announced the new approved costs of connection of power for all categories from domestic consumers, through commercial to large industrial consumers.

The ERA for example, said the least cost to a customer will be 576,773 shillings to get a connection that does not need a pole, while where one pole is required, it would cost sh 1,989,135.

The electricity distributor, Umeme in reaction issued a cost list for the domestic consumers showing that it will now charge Shs 741,188 for a no-pole connection while a one pole service is between Shs 2.3million and Shs 2.7m depending on whether the cable used will be bare or insulated.

This contrasts sharply with the about Shs 98,000 that new customers used to pay before the free ECP that was launched in 2018. The cost of a 1 pole connection to the customer would total around Shs 360,000. Since 2018, customers have been only required to pay the inspection fee.

However, when the government ran out of money in May, the free policy was suspended and since then all commercial connections stalled.

The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development says some customers petitioned government to allow them to get connected even if it meant bearing the full cost, which the government granted.

Now 22 organisations are faulting the government and ERA for not consulting the public as laid out in the laws, and for encouraging breach of contracts distributors had made with the customers.

The Africa Institute for Energy Governance Executive Director, Dickens Kamugisha also accuses the executive of violating the law by interfering with the independence of the regulator.

The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Energy, Robert Kasande says it is unfair for anyone to say the government abandoned the people in the times of a pandemic, saying they just ran into problems and has to respond to demands by those able to afford the full costs.

However, Kamugisha refutes as unfounded the argument that the government does not have enough money, saying it should have used the rescue packages that development partners have been giving to Uganda.

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State Minister Simon D’Ujanga says government recognizes the fact that the cost of electricity in Uganda is among the highest in Africa, including connection fees and consumer tariffs.

The power tariffs charged by Umeme range between Shs 751 per unit for domestic consumers to Shs 370 for the extra-large industrial consumers.

The minister says the government had to tackle these concurrently by re-negotiating the cost of the financing for Bujagali Power Dam as well as introducing the free connection policy. But he now says they have no option but to suspend it.