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Power Lines Unutilized in Kalungu due to High Connectivity Cost

Vincent Ssebayinda, a resident of Katungulu village in Bukulula sub-county is one of the thousands of people who failed to secure power connections to their houses when the contractors completed laying the main power infrastructures in 2019 and asked residents to apply for connection from UMEME, but charges frustrated them.
Power lines running through villages in Kalungu district, implemented under Rural Electrification project..

Audio 2



The newly constructed electricity distribution lines passing through several villages in Kalungu district remain underutilized as targeted beneficiaries decry high connectivity costs. 

  In 2019, the government through the Rural Electrification Program laid 167 kilometers of low voltage power lines to extend electricity to ten parishes in Kalungu district with a target of connecting at least 20,000 households to the national grid. 

The intended benefiting parishes are Kasanje, Bwesa, Namagoma, Kaduggala, Ddada, Kinyerere, Kirowooza, Kibisi, Kitamba and Bbaala. 

However, the new electricity lines are having very minimal utilization in several villages, as residents decry the high connection charges which they argue cannot be afforded by the majority of rural people.

 

Vincent Ssebayinda, a resident of Katungulu village in Bukulula sub-county is one of the thousands of people who failed to secure power connections to their houses. According to him when the contractors completed constructing the main power infrastructures in 2019, they asked the residents to apply for connection from UMEME but charges have since frustrated them. 

He indicates that according to the survey by UMEME technicians, he needs two poles from the main power line to his house and that the process was costed at 5.86 million shillings which he cannot raise.

Despite having the power lines extended to the proximity of his home, Ssebayinda says has since given up on seeking the connection until the costs go down.

  

Henry Ssentongo a councilor representing Mabuye Parish to Bukulala sub-county is afraid that government will not get returns on the huge investment in the area if it does not cut the cost of connectivity. 

He explains that the majority of the people in the rural areas can hardly afford the cost of putting up single-pole, yet the main lines are largely rectilinear running along the main roads. 

According to UMEME, the cost for domestic power connection range between 720,883 shillings for consumers with no pole required, to 2.38 million shillings where one pole is needed, with uninsulated cables on top of 41,300 shillings paid as inspection fees.

Ssentongo argues that the cost is not affordable to the residents in the rural area, which will continue to frustrate the project from meeting its intended objectives in the area. 

 

(LUGANDA) //Cue in; “ekizibu kyetulina….// Cue out; ….gakozesa awaka.”// Benna Nasuuna, the Vice-Chairperson for Bukulula Sub County explains that despite the public excitement upon the extension of power lines in the area, the residents are now looking at them as mere decoration because just a very few people have managed to tap onto them. 

(Luganda)  //Cue in: “era abasinga tetugalina …// Cue out: ….mawanga kubonana.”// 

 

Barbara Kasande, the UMEME Operation Manager in charge of the Greater Masaka sub region, says that the cost rose after phasing out the free Electricity Connection Policy-ECP after the government ran short of funds in 2020. She, however, indicates that government is aware of the public concern about the cost of connectivity and that it is now working on securing funds to support the resumption of providing the free connection.

In 2018, the government obtained a loan from the World Bank to fund the ECP, as an intervention to increase smooth electricity connections by heavily subsidizing the cost of connectivity to the customers.

  

Under the free connection policy, a customer that required no pole was asked to pay only inspection fees, while the one that required one pole would pay 360,000 to be connected to the power line. 

However, the project was suspended midterm in 2020 after the government ran short of funds before it allowed power distribution companies to resume charging the customers full prices for the connections.