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Uganda’s power distribution company, Umeme, is investing $15.2 million into two major power projects in the Mbale district to improve power supply quality and reliability in the region.

The two projects are the Siti 2 Project and the Tangshan Mbale Industrial Park Project. On completion, both projects are expected to increase the Mbale Umeme district’s electricity supply by 205% from the current 20MW to 61MW.

The Umeme district covers Mbale City as well as the local administration districts of Manafwa, Kibuku, Pallisa, Kumi, and Kapchorwa.

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The Siti 2 Project has four major components namely: a 125km 33kV single circuit double poles line evacuating power from the 16.5MW Siti 2 Hydro Power Project (HPP) on River Siti in Bukwo District.

Works on the power line are 97% complete, and the plant is ready to start generating power, according to Selestino Babungi, the Umeme Managing Director.

Babungi: “The second component involves the construction of a switching station and plant house at Umeme’s Mbale existing substation, and this component is 74% complete.

“The third phase includes capacitor banks to stabilise power to the Mbale industrial area and is 70% complete. The final component, which is 96% complete involves wayleaves acquisition and the compensation of 3,242 project affected persons (PAPs),” Babungi told media on a recent tour of the project.

The Siti 2 project that commenced in July 2019 was, according to Eng. Job Watti, the Umeme Project Engineer, scheduled to be finalised at the end of December 2019 but encountered some delays associated with a steep terrain and adverse weather as well as wayleaves acquisition.

The COVID-19 pandemic, subsequently, caused more delays, but the project is now slated for completion by 31 August 2020.

Tangshan Mbale Industrial Park Project 

The Tangshan Mbale Industrial Park Project includes a 75km power line, evacuating up to 25MW from the Tororo UETCL substation to Mbale’s Sino-Uganda Mbale Industrial Park. It also consists of a 10km power distribution line within the industrial park.

To stabilise the power to meet industrial demands, Umeme is also constructing a switching station and plant house within the industrial park. The power distributor will also spend an additional $1,000,000 on compensating project affected persons.

This project started on 7 May 2020 and is scheduled for completion by the end of December 2020.

“The Mbale projects are one of our major investments for 2020 in support of government’s efforts to attract industries and jobs in the eastern region,” Babungi told the media.

“Having been granted city status, we expect demand in Mbale City and the surrounding areas to grow considerably fast. Current demand is about 20 MW but the industrial park alone is expected to consume 220MW of power at full capacity. In addition to the industrial park, there is a cement factory in the pipeline in Mbale,” he said.

Sitting on 619 acres, the Sino- Uganda, Mbale Industrial Park, according to the developers, looks to attract between 60-80 factories, which at peak will consume up to 220MW of power.

Currently, eight factories have been built in the park, although four are active and use up to 3MW of power. According to Dary Lee the park’s administrator, the four factories employ 1,500 Ugandans.

“Industrial parks are the future of industrialisation in Uganda because they guarantee a lower cost of production per unit.

The Mbale Industrial park particularly because of its proximity to the Kenyan border and subsequently the Mombasa Port, is strategic for both import substitution and export-based factories,” Babungi said during the tour.

Godfrey Bwire, the Umeme Customer Services Engineer, Networks said that while previously electricity demand in Mbale had grown at an average 1% annually, in 2019 alone, demand had jumped by 5%.

Over and above the 61MW projected by the end of December 2020, additional capacity to the industrial park will come from a UETCL transmission substation planned for 2021.