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Uganda is taking steps to improve and increase its current 5% electrification rate
Robert-Mubiru
Robert Mubiru says that Umeme is working towards making the sector more viable

Ugandan electricity distribution company Umeme is seeking eligible companies to supply 2,000 pre-wired meter enclosures and access control systems for large power users this year and a further 13,000 by end of 2020.

Umeme project manager Robert Mubiru told ESI Africa last week that the company has successfully tried and tested 600 smart meter boxes and it now wants to widen this number so it can “lock down 13,000 customers with a better service that is more responsive to their power issues and which offers better quality and reliability.”

Revenue protection

Mubiru added: “At the same time, we want to secure revenues for Umeme and help make the sector more viable, because once you secure the revenues with the collection agent for the sector, you are then able to give attention to generation and transmission.”

According to Mubiru, the tender comes as part of a revenue protection strategy for the company, where losses amounted to 38% in 2009.

“This loss was totally unacceptable politically, socially and economically. So, we had to quickly put in place a strategy to reduce these types of high losses,” he said.

Internal administrative attempts to reduce this figure was done by cleaning and sorting any inefficiencies on the data, which Mubiru claimed brought the figure down by 6% to 32%.

Domestic challenges

An estimated 650,000 electricity customers are facing issues such as electricity and cable theft, illegal by-passing of networks, expensive municipal tariffs and poor overloaded networks.

In order to curb these activities, Mubiru said “Umeme is converting existing customers to pre-payment for free, however new customers have to pay the usual fees for connection (less security deposit) in order to optimise the network.”

According to Mubiru, the power company has also conducted detailed studies that split the technical and commercial losses to help start to prioritise technical loss reduction initiatives.

Mubiru added that Umeme’s focus is on securing meters and monitoring the installations, both on the access and the meter itself, in order to get relevant data needed to ascertain where the customers’ inefficiencies are.

The tender went out at the beginning of May and was due to close on 25 May but according to Mubiru has been extended until mid June due to Umeme seeking the highest quality product and professional suppliers possible.

The tender can be viewed on the Umeme website.