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How to balance power generation and use

In October 2017, Uganda welcomed its second grid-connected solar photovoltaic power plant, the Tororo Solar North Plant, which boosts the country’s electricity generation capacity by 10 MWp.

In December 2016, the 10 MWp Access Uganda Solar Limited Power Plant was commissioned in Soroti district. Presently, Uganda uses a combination of renewable and non-renewable energy resources/technologies for power generation, with the former making the greater supply to the national grid.

The contribution of renewable energy includes hydro – 708.34MW (81%); bagasse co-generation – 46MW (5.3%), and solar – 20MW (2.3%), which adds up to 774.34MW.

The rest of electricity supplied to the grid is derived from thermal (non-renewable energy) at 100MW (11.4%), which brings the total grid installed capacity to 929.6 MW, as of December 2017.

Tororo Solar North Plant

Over the next two to three years, Uganda’s total generation capacity is projected at 1,800MW. Peak demand, on the other hand, is projected at 735MW during the same period.

It is, therefore, critical that stakeholders in the industry address the likely energy consumption deficit so that the benefits of the country generating more than sufficient electricity may not be diminished.

The government and other stakeholders have developed plans to align electricity generation with demand for the attainment of a supply-demand balance.

The measures to grow the country’s demand for electricity are intended to increase utilisation of power and utilisation of power generation plants at their maximum installed capacity, which would lead to reduction of the electricity tariffs.

The demand-growth measures include the establishment of 25 industrial parks whose industries will consume a significant amount of energy. These include the Osukuru industrial complex in Tororo district which is expected to consume 200MW; and from power trade within the East African region.

Uganda’s electricity export potential currently stands at 690MW, for exports to Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan. Further, the ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, through the Rural Electrification Agency, will implement free universal electrification, at a projected rate of 300,000 connections per year.

This will translate into 10MW  to 15MW of additional demand from households per year. Growth in demand for electricity is associated with significant investments in the transmission and distribution infrastructure to reinforce and expand the grid for efficient evacuation, transmission and distribution of all electricity generated.

A study by ERA has revealed that funding worth $4,510 million would be required to cater for evacuation of power, expansion of the network, establishment of substations at industrial parks, and reinvestment into the network. The funding is expected to be contributed by both the Government of Uganda and the private sector.

As the country prepares for the commissioning of the large hydropower plants by the end of 2019, a critical consideration for stakeholders in the electricity supply industry should be – how best can we use the available electricity resource to achieve socio-economic transformation?

The author is principal communications officer, Electricity Regulatory Authority.

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd