Kampala, Uganda | URN| Uganda’s main power distribution company, Umeme, has tabled a $219 million (Shs 813.2 billion budget) for the year 2021. Of that, $119 million (Shs 442.4 billion) will be for capital investments in the grid while $60m (Shs 222.4bn) will cater for net operating costs.
The company says it will spend $ 2m (Shs 6.6bn) on lease payments and the balance $38m (Shs 141.8bn) on an assortment of other items. It plans to invest in the evacuation of Karuma and Acwa hydropower plants, improving power supply and expanding the network.
Additionally, the distributor will clear the backlog of 240,000 applications for connection and convert the 40,000 post-paid meters still in use to prepaid.
Selestino Babungi, the Umeme Managing Director told stakeholders in a virtual application for a tariff review that COVID-19 has impacted the way the company does its business and that many things will change.
“2020 was a difficult year for us as a company. We had ambitious plans but COVID-19 impacted us. However, we demonstrated resilience and as a company, we say that electricity is a fundamental input into the economic transformation of this country so we came out strongly to continue putting in place systems for the continuity of supply and services to our customers,” he said.
Umeme is expected to start evacuation of power from Karuma hydropower plant and needs to continue investing in the distribution network to not only improve supply but boost demand too.
While presenting the company’s revenue requirement, Blessing Nshaho, Umeme’s chief corporate and regulatory officer said prospective electricity customers will soon be applying for connections online.
He however appealed to customers to understand that while they need an affordable tariff, Umeme and other companies are now forced to charge a tariff that reflects the cost of delivering the service.
The online application system is in line with Standard Operating Procedures [SOP] on minimising human contact where possible. Presently, one must travel to the company’s office in their area serves to pick and fill application forms, but under the new system currently under testing, this will change.
Umeme currently has 1.53 million customers up from 292,000 in 2005 when it launched its operations.
It also promises that it will take only 10 days to connect a customer who needs no pole from the day of application while one who requires a pole will be connected within 30 days.
On December 7th, 2020, the government allowed individuals who can meet the full cost of connections to pay for them with a no-pole connection costing shs 741,188, while the one-pole connect will cost between shs 2.3 million and 2.7 million depending on whether the cables are insulated or not.
The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development says it is satisfied with the pace at which the electricity industry was growing prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.
The Permanent Secretary Robert Kasande cites the growth in both transmission and distribution coverage in 2019, especially by the Rural Electrification Agency, whose activities have unfortunately been suspended.