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Government Sure to Meet Electricity Connectivity Target Despite Big Backlog

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Procurement of 234,989 no-pole connection materials utilizing funds from the Exim Bank of China Access project (under TBEA contract) is also ongoing and these materials are expected in August 2021.
Uganda Electricity Distribution Company technicians at work

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The government has so far completed 9,800 electricity connections out of the 110,000 targeted connections for this year, under the Electricity Connection Policy. 

The policy implementation resumed in March after a three-month suspension starting in December 2020. Electricity companies implementing the connections had already stopped their activities as early as June 2020 due to lack of cash. 

When the Government accumulated arrears of Shillings103billion shillings, the Service Providers were unwilling to make newer connections before the Government settling the arrears. Following the acquisition of funds from both the government and development partners,  implementation resumed in March.

The then Minister for Energy and Mineral Development, Mary Goretti Kitutu announced that 110,697 connections were to be completed by the end of this year. Now, of the new connections since December, 1,502 connections were completed between April and June this year, an average of 500 per month. 

This brings the total connections under the policy, to 299,843 as of the end of June 2021. This is also still far below the target that was set when the policy commenced in 2018.  The target of the policy is 300,000 connections per year and is supposed to take up electricity connections to the national grid to 60% by 2027 when it ends, up from the current 30%, according to the ministry. The ministry hopes that connectivity rates will continue as the activities pick up and as more resources are got by the government, so as to meet the target. 

Energy Minister Ruth Nankabirwa says that before embarking on new applications, they are bent on clearing the backlog of about 300,000 connections, which resulted from the suspension of the policy. 

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The cash shortage was attributed to the outbreak of the coronavirus in the country, which saw resources diverted from many sectors to fight the outbreak.  However, this also came when the Rural Electrification Agency, which implements the policy was riddled by allegations of corruption and abuse of office leading to the interdiction of top managers.

Even after the suspension of the policy, households continued applying for free connections, hoping for a normal situation soon.  “Requests for new consumer connections continued accumulating and by 7th December 2020, there was a backlog of 200,500 applications for new electricity connections. The policy resumed with a dual connection system where customers with the ability to pay for their connections can pay in three days without waiting as Government mobilizes additional resources for the ECP to clear the backlog,” said Minister Nankabirwa.          

The companies carrying out the connections say they will first connect handle the backlog on a first come-first- served basis. Mr Stephen Ilungole, the Umeme media relations manager, said yesterday the programme is another opportunity to serve customers on top of serving those willing to fund their connection costs. 

"There were slightly over 250,000 customers who have applied for free connections and had waited more than five months. The 87,500 under out docket will be selected from these customers on a first-come-first-serve basis," said Steven Illungole, the media relations manager at Umeme. 

Minister Nankabirwa says even the ongoing connections are following the order starting with the oldest completed applications, as procurement for more materials continues.  

“Procurement of 234,989 no-pole connection materials utilizing funds from the Exim Bank of China Access project (under TBEA contract) is also ongoing and these materials are expected in August 2021. This is therefore to confirm Government commitment to increase access to clean energy in line with the NDP-III,” she says   

She however implores those that have the ability to foot the full cost of connection to go ahead, so as to help reduce the backlog and avoid delaying the commencement of their businesses. She adds that business operators who wait for the free connection should better use private resources especially if they have already spent money on their investments instead of maintaining idle investments.

Meanwhile, the government is piloting a cheap power supply for institutions that use biofuels, as a way of increasing power consumption, which would in the end see it able to lower the cost of electricity to at least 453 Shillings per unit.

The Electricity Regulatory Authority-ERA Executive Director, Ziria Tibalwa Waako, says that they have started with the Mwana-mugimu clinic at Mulago with the aim of convincing institutions to abandon the use of charcoal and firewood.

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