The government this week plans to export 50Megawatts (MW) to Kenya as payment in kind for the power acquired last week to plug the gap occasioned by the emergency shutdown of Isimba hydro power dam.
Kenya, according to sources familiar with the matter, first dispatched 60MW to Uganda to deal with the deficit.
The dispatches, however, gradually reduced to 40MW by last Friday when the first turbine of Isimba dam was restored.
Previously, a bulk of power-generated at Isimba was exported to Kenya owing to the handicapped transmission and distribution arms, manned by Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Ltd (UETCL) and Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Ltd (UEDCL), respectively.
Uganda and Kenya maintain Power Purchase Agreements since 1964.
By press time yesterday, the first two of the four Kaplan axial flow turbines, that generate electricity, had been fully restored. Each of the turbine units has a generation capacity of 45.5MW.
The two restored turbines—one on Friday evening and the second on Saturday—brought on board 91.4MW. Still, UETCL can only partake 76MW daily leaving a surplus of 15MW.
The partial restoration of the dam also cut short the plan approved by Cabinet last Monday to ignite the Heavy Fuel Oil—thermal power plant at Namanve to provide 50MW to the national grid as part of the deficit plug plan.
The Namanve thermal plant ran for eight days, operating 16 hours a day and outputting 50MW daily.
The cost incurred remains a moving figure amid claims of officials making a killing from the deal.
The Jinja-based Kakira sugar was also greenlit to supply 20MW but did so for one day, citing shortage of Bagasse (sugarcane). A third turbine is expected to be restored by the end of today or tomorrow, bringing combined partial generation capacity to 135MW.
The fourth turbine is expected to be switched on by the end of the month to fully restore the plant to its full 183MW. The fourth turbine—Unit 3—had been off, under defects rectification by the time the dam flooded.
The $568m (Shs2.1 trillion) dam, 80 percent a loan from China’s EXIM Bank, remains under the Defects Lability Period (DLP), the time period specified in the contract during which a contractor is legally required to return to a construction site to repair any defects.
The agreed DLP was four years from the time of commissioning in March 2019 but officials are mulling a six-months extension to allow the insouciant contractor, China International Water and Electric Corporation, to fix more defects that have been flagged on the facility.
For Uganda Electricity Generation Company (UEGCL) engineers, on site and at headquarters in Kamyokya, getting this far—restoring the first two turbines—has been a nightmarish two weeks since the dam was first switched following an accidental flooding of the powerhouse.
“This incident has tested our emergency response and dam safety plans, and I think we have responded well,” UEGCL’s chief executive officer Harrison Mutikanga said yesterday during a site visit by Energy minister Ruth Nankabirwa to officiate the restoration of the first turbines.
UEGCL, the statutory body in charge of electricity generation, entreated its other electrical and mechanical engineers from Karuma hydro power dam in Kiryandongo District and Nalubaale [Owens Falls] dam in Jinja.
Ms Nankabirwa described the restoration as a testament of faith in Ugandan engineers who undertook the laborious work without necessitating foreign expatriates.
“People tend to forget where this country has come from in terms of power generation, capacity, and technology transfer to the extent that our engineers can pull this off…I want to assure the country that the crisis has been addressed,” she said.
The UEGCL board chairperson, Ms Proscovia Njuki, said whereas they are conducting internal investigations on what caused the flooding in Isimba dam, they are ready to work with the team that will be sent from Parliament to conduct a parallel investigation.
“There was not any hole in the power house but preliminary investigations indicate that one of the gates that was supposed to close jammed and refused to close feeding in water from the river,” she said.
Parliament last week called for an independent probe into dam shut down and the decision to switch to other means to plug the void.