Seven arrested for vandalism

By Robert Segawa

The crime intelligence department of police has arrested seven suspects who have been found in possession of stolen electric cables and electric gadgets worth 3 billion shillings.

The crime intelligence has identified Kiboga and Rubaga as areas that have been affected by the vandalism.

While addressing journalists at the Police headquarters,Police mouth piece Fred Enanga said that members of the public have been complaining about vandalism on electric utilities where electricity poles and insulators have been cut.

He explained that ,this has been disrupting power supply in these areas but also causing electricity company UMEME a huge loss.

Enanga further identified the suspects arrested as Ssemaganda Ronald, Matovu Abdul, Musoke Lawrence, Bugiri Martin, Nuwamanya Micheal, Tulyatemba Ashiraf,Obadia Matovu all were picked from Kiboga and Old Kampala.

The suspects are to be charged for being in possession of government property and vandalism.

Rural Electrification at stake as ministers disagree

By Edwin Muhumuza

Members of parliament sitting on the committee of Natural Resources have expressed disappointment in the minister of energy, Maria Goretti Kitutu over failure to bring evidence that the agency is still independent.

This while she appeared before the committee requesting for over UGX 90 billion for rural electrification amid concerns that the body might be merged with the mother ministry and should not qualify for the funds.

Upon failing to sufficiently explain herself, on why the process is taking slower than normal, it raised suspicion that the line ministers might be at loggerheads.

It is in light of that disagreement that Busia Municipality MP, Macho Geoffrey questioned why the minister continues to appear alone to answer to queries in the budget and accountability process.

‘We noted that there is a problem of management among the ministers because why does the minister come alone to defend a government budget process alone. We call upon the prime minister to rectify this problem because he is the monitor of ministers.’ Macho noted.

While discussing the ministerial policy statement for FY2021/22, the minister was reminded that the government had prioritized power distribution, unfortunately it has been observed that the cost of power has increased.

‘Relatedly, how do we sanction the release of more funds to an agency whose legality is not clear and cannot be explained, save for an alleged conversation with the attorney general in the corridors that the minister is telling us? These are government matters that should be written and not discussed in corridors to become statutory! The Busia Municipality MP remarked.

According to the minister, the first statutory instrument number sixty legalizing REA was replaced by the second in court, however the chairman of the committee Keefa Kiwanuka, wondered why she changed position on the matter, choosing to refer to the attorney general for interpretation having promised that she would herself guide the committee on the attorney general’s interpretation.

Meanwhile, another member of the committee Ruhinda North Legislator Hon Thomas Tayebwa wants the abolition of service fee charges on Ugandans who own Yaka Meters.

He said that fee is reminiscent of the service charges that telecom firms used to impose on Ugandans when they had just arrived adding that the Yaka service fee is broad day robbery and extortion

‘People are receiving lesser units than what they are paying for and UMEME in their explanation are including service fee. We are saying service fee has to stop. We cannot go back to the analogue era. Which service are you giving me when I am not using your power? Tayebwa asked.

As the committee wound up, Robert Kasande, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Energy Mineral Development revealed that the issue of redeemed energy was a challenge.

‘Power plants are developed and we needed to have developed evacuation lines which due to various reasons including land acquisition, were not constructed on time and so power plant developers are charging us redeemed energy and the money that has been allocated to us is not anywhere near what we need. We need about shs. 91bn more yet were given UGX 9bn in the budget.’ he said.

He also noted that the aerial survey of Karamoja was progressing well and issues to do with the budget of REA are that it exists as a fund in the law and is managed under an instrument created by the minister and so it is a fund under the ministry whose vote qualifies for funds to deliver a service to Ugandans.

UMEME gets funds to increase electricity connectivity around the country

By Gloria Nakiyimba

Electricity distributor UMEME limited has secured 258 billion shillings funding to support its planned investments in the electricity distribution network.

Selestino Babungi the managing director UMEME says the funds from Stanbic Bank, Standard chartered bank, and the Dutch Development Bank allow the company to reinforce the net work over the next two-three years, to expand the system, drive efficiency and increase electricity connectivity . The financing will see Umeme increase grid connection by one million customers; improve reliability of supply across the country.
“Umeme aims to make investments in the network necessary to drive industrialization and to create efficiency throught reducing technical losses on the network” said Babungi.

According to Babungi, they need to get the losses down to 13 percent by 2025, add 2 million households to the national grid, and to improve reliability to ensure provision of safe, reliable and quality power to all households.

Patrick Bitature the chairman of the UMEME Board revealed that the company is in discussions with the government to seek the electricity distribution concession beyond 2025.

This he said “ would allow the company to raise the much needed capital to evacuate and uptake the power from Karuma/ Isimba and increase connections to achieve government of Uganda’s access target of 40% by 2025”.
The company will also use part of the syndicated funding led by International Finance Cooperation –IFC to convert the remaining 250,000 customers onto prepayment billing system.

UMEME has so far rolled out one million prepaid meters and collecting for the sector 99 per cent of the money that is billed used to pay the transmission company and generators.

Busoga youths sue UMEME

By Sania Babirye

A group of Busoga youths led by the people power movement mobilizer for Busoga sub-region Moses Bigirwa have dragged UMEME and Government to the high court over what they have termed as inadequate expensive power supply and rampant load shading in Busoga region.

According to the youths, its not fair that Busoga region houses the major four power dams including Nalubaale, Owen falls Dam,Isimba and Bujagali dams yet it continues to have inadequate, expensive power supply with constant load shading .

These further state that the irregular power supply coupled with the high power tariffs have deprived the Busoga people of their livelihood.

These now want court to issue an order compelling government and UMEME to make sure that there is power supply in Busoga region through out the year.

These also say that Busoga should receive power at lower tariffs since it houses the said dams with all villages in Busoga to fully be supplied with electricity.

UMEME disconnects power for over 10000 residents Kasokoso

By Moses Kidandi

Power distributor UMEME has disconnected over ten thousand residents of Kasokoso in Kiira division over reports of power theft and illegal connections that have reportedly put their lives in danger.

The action that has led to total darkness and fear of rising cases of insecurity has culminated into a meeting between the Residents of Kasokoso,UMEME officials and Security officials led by the resident district commissioner Kiira division. The meeting held this afternoon at Kireka rehabilitation center was meant to iron out differences arising from power theft that had put peoples lives in danger and led to energy losses.

According to UMEME 90 percent of the power distributed to Kasokoso is lost to power theft and damaging of transformers due to over loading.

In today’s meeting chaired by the Deputy RDC Kiira Division Sesamba Joseph, all stake holders agreed to regularise power connections which UMEME has offered to assist free of charge.

The UMEME area manager Michael Oputo has announced a one month amnesty to all residents who have been connected illegally to pay only 29000 to enable them be on regular supply which money in turn will be given to them in form of energy.

UMEME’s 2BN investment would reduce power accidents

By Moses Kidandi

Electricity distributor UMEME is investing two billion shillings on emergency refurbishment works of the Iganga-Bugiri power distribution line to check power outages.

The repairs, which will begin in May and end in September, will be a welcome relief for the utility’s over 1,000 customers served by the line.

Blasio Kasobya, the UMEME area customer service engineer, explained that the dilapidated old line, which passes through swampy areas, has been in dire need of repair.

“The line was in poor condition. It used to go off for at least 10 times a month with an average duration of three hours. This is definitely not good for our customers,” Kasobya noted.

Stephene Illungole UMEME’s media manager says the restoration of the line will lead to a reduction in the duration of outages and their frequency. Kasobya disclosed that the works will involve the upgrade of conductors and the insulation of outage prone points along the swampy section of the line. It will also involve the erection of up to 450 poles and strengthening of a 112-kilometre cable.

UMEME’s move to refurbish the line follows approval on April 16, 2019 by the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA).

UMEME said the renovation of the power line will be a big boost as it allows the connection of more people to the network in its support of the government access agenda. Mr. Selestino Babungi, the UMEME managing director, said the works will be expeditiously carried out to offer customers assured and more reliable supply with less outages.

“Not only will the works provide reliable supply, the quality of supply will also be greatly enhanced,” Babungi pledged his customers.

“Unfortunately, during the repair period, there may be intermittent supply as a result. We appeal to our customers to bear with us during this period for a great and better service delivery at the end of the day,” Babungi stated.

UMEME warns on dangers of illegal connections

By Alice Lubwama

The power distribution company UMEME LTD calls legislators to help in sensitization of their constituents on the dangers of illegal hooking of electricity.

Speaking at the function where financial results of the company were released, the chief operations officer of UMEME LIMITED Florence Nsubuga said that although the company has carried out sensitization campaigns against the practice, the number of fatal accidents resulting from interference with the electricity distribution network is on increase.

She noted that only last year 39 deaths were reported as related to illegal hooking on the network.

Power theft, vandalism in house wiring, electrified washing lines and illegal activities along electricity,Way leaves corridors.

However the company reports a reduction in the operation cost per customer over the last 7 years by 30%.

UMEME’s managing director Selestino Babungi noted that the operating cost per customer was reduced to 174,665 shillings in 2018 compared to 177,092 in 2017.

Babungi said that this achievement was a result of modern of use of technology, roll-out of pre-paid metering, increase in customer connections and efficiency in business operations.

The company has also reported a reduction in power loses from 17.2% in 2017 to 16.6% in 2018, attributing this to investment in pre paid meter reading and technology like procuring more transformers.

The company also announced that the number of households connected to the grid increased by 14.8% due to the government‘s electricity connection policy which allows free connections to households and business located sixty meters from an electric pole.He reveled that the company now has over 1.3 million customers over the last 13 years from when it took over from Uganda electricity Distribution Company.

Last year government launched a new electricity connection policy as part of the efforts to increase electricity access across the country. The objective of the free connection policy was to increase the number of connections from about 70,000 to 300,000 annually.

But UMEME says that over the 7 year period to 2018, it exceeded the regulatory customer base target by 0.3 million customers.

Babungi said that government was very eager to extend the concession which will expire in 2025.

“We told government that it is both in the interest and the public that since we have delivered on our mandate, the concession can be discussed and extended. ” Babungi noted.

Mr Babungi further noted that if their contract is extended, the company will be able to mobilize and deploy long term capital that is necessary to expand the distribution grid and increase uptake of the new generation capacity and support the Government agenda on grid connections and economic growth.

Transformer falls on moving car, injures a female motorist

A female motorist has been rushed to Mulago Hospital in critical condition after an electricity transformer fell and landed on her vehicle as she drove along Dewinton Road in Kampala.

Rose Kayinga Kigozi, driving in a white Toyota Voxy registration number UAT 591S, had just dropped off her son, Richard Kigozi, at the nearby Toyota Garage when the incident happened.

Gilbert Aijuka, an employee of Multiplex Services, the managers of street parking in Kampala, witnessed the incident. “I heard the sound of the pole breaking; the white car was approaching, then in seconds, the transformer fell on the car and there were sparks.”

Aijuka says he quickly called the police when heard the woman in the car calling for help. A Uganda Radio Network reporter at the scene says both the police and Umeme rescue team arrived and helped the motorist.

A breakdown vehicle from Nissan Garage was brought in and it lifted the transformer as the rescue team pulled Kayinga out.





Umeme customers will soon be able to borrow power units with the new yakako

Yakako is a singular verb meaning “You shine” in the local Luganda dialect. On the other side of the spectrum, it is a Ugandan bred service that will enable pre-paid Umeme Yaka users to be able to borrow more units to power their homes and businesses using mobile money.  Extension of the service to Post-Paid Umeme customers is in coming soon mode.

Future plans of extending the service to bank account holders are ongoing.The service will be used over mobile or across the web regardless of whatever phone one is holding. Smartphone users will be provided for with an app while feature phone users will opt for USSD codes.

For Yakako to extend the service to any prospective customer, they will assess one’s credit worth depending on the volume of transactions committed on one’s mobile money or bank account, akin to Mokash that employs a similar measure. This will determine how many units the prospective customer qualifies for. Customers then pay back the next time they top up their mobile money, bank accounts or when they use aggregators like Pay way, Ezee Money, New Pay among others to pay for Yaka.

Yakako is currently in  a prototype phase with measures to conduct pilot studies and with possibilities of extending it to other utility services like Water and probably PayTV or Internet services as is the case with payment aggregators.

Yakako wishes to partner with businesses both from the public and private sectors about extending this service to their respective employees, Mobile Network Operators in order to leverage their networks and large install base, Aggregators to leverage their POS terminals, and distribution centers and Banks to offer the service to their account holders.



UMEME asked to lower cost of electricity

By Alice Lubwama

Legislators from Bugishu region have asked UMEME to lower the cost of electricity to make it affordable, to the ordinary Ugandans.

The lawmakers made the appeal during a consultative meeting with UMEME officials on how they can assist the company on reducing power theft in the region.

According to UMEME Bugishu regional manager Trevol Higenyi says that the 5 districts of Bugishu top others in the country in power theft.

But one of the members from Manjiya county Nambeshe John baptist say that unless the tariffs are reduced and the reconnection fees are lowered illegal connections will continue.

UMEME loses more than 10mlllion dollars every year in power theft and about 52 people die as a result of power theft every year in this region.

Photo: New Vision