Power distributor Umeme will spend $1.8 million (about Shs 6.7 billion) on replacing 182 power transformers that are under considerable strain with new ones.
Transformers are electrical devices that either reduce or increase the voltage of alternating current (electrical current that reverses its direction at regular intervals) accordingly.
The company will replace transformers that are loaded up to 95 per cent, according to a new statement. To operate optimally, Umeme says demand on each transformer should not exceed 80 per cent.
Many of the transformers that are overloaded are in locations that have witnessed high population and business growth, resulting in increases in the consumption of power. The transformer injections are part of the utility’s power access plan through which it will be connecting 300, 000 eligible applicants to the national grid annually.
The additions will be on the low voltage network, that is, the one that feeds domestic consumers (households, shops) as well as on the medium-voltage grid. It is part of the company’s Shs 310 billion capital expenditure budget for this year.
With Karuma slated to be commissioned late this year or early 2021, Uganda’s installed power generation capacity will increase from 1, 254MW to 1, 854MW.
“What that means is, as a distributor, we need to increase the network capacity to deliver this power to the end-users,” said Umeme’s managing director Selestino Babungi.
Babungi added: “We need to connect more customers. Our plan for this year was to add 250, 000-plus customers on the grid. We need also to reduce losses, which has a good impact on pricing. Our target was to reduce losses from 16.4 per cent in 2019 to 14.5 per cent by the end of 2020. We need to expand the distribution network.”
While approving Umeme’s spend on transformers injections, the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) said there is need for more distribution transformers.
“[Given that] Umeme has implemented its distribution transformer budget, the authority found it prudent to allocate investment funds for further grid strengthening,” ERA wrote.
The government launched the free Electricity Connections Policy (ECP) last year to increase the percentage of Ugandans accessing electricity from 25 per cent (2019) to 60 per cent by 2027.
In turn, that should lead to a rise in the consumption of power by 500 megawatts over the same period - thus reducing on the excess electricity and settling the question about paying for the excess power.