By ZURAH NAKABUGO
The Minister of State for Energy Sidronius Opolot Okaasai has urged residents of Kumi district to use electricity for industrial and economic development projects -including factories, modernization of agriculture and farming.
“The President has been at the forefront of ensuring access to electricity all over the country for socio economic development- especially in rural areas for jobs and wealth creation,” he said.
Hon.Okaasai said that accessing sustainable energy contributes to a better-quality life. Lack of electricity is a major constraint to the people’s social and economic development with women bearing the brunt of energy poverty as they strive to support their families, the Minister observed .
“Vision 2040 acknowledges energy as one of the key fundamental requirements to harness the country’s opportunities and drive the industrial and service sectors. Strong growth in the national economy is bound to increase the demand for energy and thus open the sector for further development. Achieving the right balance between energy, economy and environment, will lead to sustainable development,” he said.
The minister was commission the implementation of the rural electrification project in Kumi district which is being undertaken by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development. TBEA- a Chinese firm was contracted in October 2019 to implement the project for three years.
At least 300 sub-county headquarters across 91 districts, including five in Busoga Sub-region are set to be connected to power.
The project worth US$ 212m (about Shs 750bn) loan which the government secured from the EXIM Bank of China towards electrification of all sub-county headquarters across the country and all service centers along the line routes will improve economic lives of Ugandans.
Kumi and Ogooma [both in Kumi District] became the latest sub-counties to be commissioned with power bringing the scope of completed works to about 80 percent.
Okaasai said all the projects have been technically tested and handed over to the service provider to have electricity extended to rural areas and have many Ugandans connected to the grid .
Currently, he said, the country’s electricity access level stands at about 57 percent, with grid connectivity at 19 percent and off-grid connections at 38 percent.
Okaasai said they are extending electricity transmission lines all over the country and outside Uganda to export excess power to East African region and beyond.
“ In order to get electricity, you must have a house that deserves to get electricity. It’s very dangerous to take electricity to grass-thatched houses, it’s too risky. But we shall connect power to all the areas we have surveyed,” he said.
Okaasai said by end of this year, government is investing another 600 Megawatts of electricity from Karuma dam electricity project in addition to the current 500 Megawatts and in total the country will have a total of 1,100 Megawatts.
“We need not less than 30,000 megawatts of electricity in the near future to drive the economy. We shall generate electricity from water, solar and nuclear. We expect our first nuclear plant by 2035,” he said.
Charles Angon, the MP Kumi Municipality the high cost of power connections for the rural poor plus delays in power connections as some of the challenges faced by the people .
“ Teso region ranks one in poverty ratings in Uganda . There is no way I can buy a cable for power connection when I don’t have food. This cost of power has to be brought down soon,” he said.
Abdul-Aziz Ongodia, the Chairperson LC3 Kumi Sub-county said that although electric-poles have been erected in people’s compounds, majority of residents are not yet connected to power since they can’t afford to pay for expensive connection fee of worth Shs 700,000.
“Wiring power in house costs about Shs 1.5m and connection costs Shs 700,000. In total, its Shs 2.2m, which I can’t manage to get with my salary of Shs 300,000 per month. We want Minister to review the cost of power since it’s too high and yet we have a lot of power in Uganda,” he said.
Ongodia also requested Okaasai to help schools in Kumi district to get power since all the schools there don’t have power and this affects their performance.
Okaasai explained that in order to reduce the cost of electricity in Uganda- there is need for more people to get connected-to share out the cost of generating, transition and distribution of electricity.
“Government doesn’t have enough resources to get everybody connected to electricity so, people should look for connection fee to get power,” he said.
Apolot Christine, the district Woman MP Kumi district advised people to avoid misusing electricity since its very expensive and always switch off lights during the day to avoid high charges.
“ It’s true the cost of power is too high but people should also be mindful on the way they utilize power. Women miss use power.They don’t switch off power during day time because they know it’s the husbands who meet the costs yet it affects them too,” she said.
Apolot appealed to government to compensate people who are complaining about their houses and trees which were destroyed during electricity distribution in their area.
Wegulo Byakatonda, the manager projects department of the Rural Electrification Programme in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development said: “the demand for electricity among Ugandans is bigger compared to the resources.”
He said, the scope under implementation consists of more than 10,580kms of electricity network and 1,926 transformers installed in the districts.
In Busoga , the sub-counties to benefit from power include Busesa, Kapyanga and Nabukalu in Bugiri; Kiwanyi and Maziba in Namutumba; Irundu, Budiope and Nagandho in Buyende; Budondo, Buyende, Buyengo, Kabowa and Nawandala in Jinja, and Namalemba in Bugweri.
Other sub-counties are in Kapchorwa, Kumi, Bukedea, Butaleja, Kyegegwa, Kassandha, Kiboga, Kagadi, Kibaale, Kayunga, Isingiro, Kanungu, Bundibugyo and Adjumani, among others.
North Division: Okouba, Adacar, Adacar(1), Omolokoyo, Okouba(2), Okouba(1), Angopet, Amejei, Kabata
South Division: Abubur Village, Abu, bur Center-, Kelim, Abosan 1, Olungia
Ogooma: Muruikara, Morita, Aguuba, Ogooma HC, Ogooma TC
Kumi Sub county: Asinge 1, Asinge 2
Atutur: Akalabai, Kajamaka, Kapokin, Oswapai, Orapada Center/Akalonyi, Kalungar 1, Kalungar 2, Orapada PS.
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