28 July 2009 – Power output at Uganda’s 250 megawatts Bujagali hydro plant on the Nile has been postponed to at least mid-2011 due to changes in project design, a government official said on Tuesday.

James Baanabe, Acting Commissioner for Energy at Uganda’s energy ministry, said the first of the five 50 MW turbines would not be commissioned before the middle of 2011, with the other units being commissioned in intervals of four to six months.

The first unit of the plant had previously been scheduled for commissioning by the end of 2010.

"We are hoping to have the first turbine up and running by 2011 … we still hope for the middle of 2011, but all depends on when the government will approve the changes in design," Baanabe told Reuters on the sidelines of the HydroPower Africa conference in Johannesburg.

Baanabe said it had been discovered during construction that the rock in part of the site was softer than previously anticipated and an additional layer of concrete might need to be laid to secure the required flow of water to the plant.

A revised project plan had been submitted to the government for approval and the changes could raise the cost of the project to close to $900 million, Baanabe said.

Bujagali is meant to supply rising demand for electricity in the East African country, estimated to be growing 8 percent annually, the official said.

Baanabe also said the plant would lower the cost of power and reduce Uganda’s reliance on expensive thermal plants.

"(With Bujagali) tariffs will be more affordable and sustainable," he earlier told the conference.

The project’s developer, Bujagali Energy Limited (BEL), will sell electricity directly to Uganda’s transmission company under a 30-year power purchase agreement, with the government supplying guarantees for the three-decade long deal.