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Power generation boosted by rains

25 September 2007 – Heavy rains have ravaged Uganda, killing 47 people and displacing thousands. However, this may have a positive effect on the country’s generation capacity – a paradoxically welcome outcome of the weather.

Representatives from the ministry of energy and directorate of water development met to discuss allowing Eskom, the hydro power operator in Jinja, to release more water from Lake Victoria for generation purposes.

Energy minister, Daudi Migereko told the Daily Monitor newspaper "Let’s wait and see what comes out of this meeting, we’ll get to you as soon as we reach a position," when asked to confirm that generation capacity would increase.

Heavy rains have fallen lately, with forecasts of further rain and flooding for the next few months. Rivers have already burst their banks and lake shorelines are being submerged.

Reports suggest that the waters of Lake Victoria have risen by one meter since the rains began, with the lake now at 1,134 meters, compared to 1,133 meters in February 2006.

The Teso, Lango and Karamoja regions have been particularly badly hit, with half a million people displaced and nearly all economic infrastructure and social facilities destroyed. President Museveni last week declared a state of emergency in the region to facilitate faster mobilisation of aid.

The Kiira and Nalubaale power stations in Jinja currently produce an estimated 140MW of power. With an installed capacity of 280 MW, the two stations have been producing below capacity largely due to low water levels in Lake Victoria.

Increased generation capacity may help to decrease tariffs charged by Umeme, the power distribution company, as increased hydropower will give Umeme access to heaper electricity.

However, Paul Mare, managing director of Umeme explained that it was the Electricity Regulatory Authority(ERA) which would have to readjust tariffs to compensate for lower bulk purchase tariffs.

"We operate like any other retailer, if we buy at a cheaper price, we sell cheaply. So if the price at which UETCL [Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Ltd] sells us power drops then ERA will have to look at that and act accordingly," he said.

Increased power generation would also limit the frequency of power outages in the country. Uganda’s total power demand is estimated by ERA at 350MW while supply (hydro and thermal combined) stands at about 240MW, leaving a shortfall of about a 100MW.