Umeme loses Shs100b to power theft

A Umeme managing director Selestino Babungi addresses journalists on Thursday morning. Photo by Afunadula.

KAMPALA–Uganda’s power distributor Umeme has revealed that it loses about Shs100 billion in electricity thefts annually.

Of the Shs100 billion loses, Mbale alone accounts for Shs10 billion.

This has been revealed at stakeholders briefing held Thursday at the Golden Tulip Hotel.

“Mbale accounts for 10 per cent of the annual losses as a result of power theft and vandalism,” Umeme Chief Operations Officer, Florence Nsubuga, said while addressing stakeholders and media.

However, Umeme’s efforts to bring down illegal connections in the area have enabled the company to cut the losses by at least Shs1billion.

Nsubuga stressed that power theft and vandalism of power infrastructure is not a problem for UMEME but a societal problem henceforth calling on local leaders and communities to address it.

She said UMEME had had to engage local leaders and their communities to have illegal connections go down, supplemented by other methods like the use of the police.

Meanwhile, Umeme has reduced power losses to 17.5 percent in 2017 from 38 per cent in 2005, saving the company Shs250 billion over 12 years.

According to Umeme’s Managing Director Selestino Babungi, the reduction in power losses is a result of continuous sensitization campaigns against illegal power connections and vandalism of company infrastructure especially in the Elgon region.

He further says the reduction of power thefts in the country will help to further bring down the unit cost of power in the country, which currently stands at Shs650 for domestic consumers.

Umeme Deputy Managing Director Sam Zzimbe said the company intends to spend about $1.5 billion in distribution over the next ten years as the demand for power in the country increases. In the last 12 years, UMEME bosses say the company spent $500 million in the distribution network.

Some of the projects implemented included with US$500 million include the Moniko Substation (US$ 6.8 million), Tororo Industrial Park (US$ 1.4 million), Medium Voltage Distribution (Kibuli feeder), Construction of interconnection feeders, Rollout of pre-paid metering and automated meter reading systems and expansion of distribution zones and new customer connections to the grid.

UMEME is banking on the near completion of power projects to expand its network, the company officials said.

Some of the hydropower projects include the 600MW Karuma hydropower dam, the 183MW Isimba hydropower dam which are at 62 percent and 76 per cent completion rate, respectively.

Babungi says UMEME is well-placed to acquire capital for further investment in the distribution network, disclosing further that the company plans to connect all customers to pre-paid metres (YAKA) by end of the year 2019.

He says UMEME plans to provide power to the 25 industrial parks set up by government across the country for industrial development, adding that recently his team visited Mbale Industrial park on power connection related issues.



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