The Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, Ruth
Nankabirwa has told parliament that testing of the 183-Megawatts Isimba Hydropower Plant commenced today,
in a bid to restore power production.
Nankabirwa on Thursday presented a statement to
parliament on the emergency total shutdown of Isimba and the move by the government
to import 60 megawatts from Kenya.
On Monday last week,
the 183-Megawatts Isimba Dam, located in Kayunga district flooded and it was
temporarily shut down leading to load-shedding in different parts of the
country that is to go on for three weeks, according to the Ministry of Energy.
According to Minister Nankabirwa, the shutdown was
due to the flow of water into the powerhouse that triggered a dam safety
procedure to ensure safety of staff and protection of equipment.
“The flow of water into the powerhouse arose from an
operational challenge. Consequently, dam safety procedures were automatically
triggered to ensure the safety of staff, protection of equipment and prevention
of potential dam failure. The Powerhouse was dewatered using the station
drainage pumps and it took about 10 hours to remove all the water and create a
safe working environment,” she told MPs.
She added that among measures taken by Uganda
Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL) to ensure continuity of
electricity supply was the initial importation of 60 megawatts from Kenya into
order to stabilize the electricity grid.
“Uganda has had power trade arrangements with Kenya
since 1960s, these arrangements normally come in handy whenever we have
challenges similar to what we are experiencing with Isimba Hydro Power Plant
that affect grid stability,” Nankabirwa explained.
Parliament also learnt that as of Thursday 18th,
the amount of power being imported from Kenya had gone down to less than 30
megawatts and that this is to continue reducing.
//Cue in: “I also beg…//
Cue out:…shipped to Uganda.”//
Nankabirwa further revealed that the other measures
that were taken immediately were the electricity dispatch of up to 50 megawatts
from the Namanve thermal power plant, dispatch of 20 megawatts from the Kakira
Sugar Power Plant, optimization of the generation capacity of available power
plants across the country and the implementation of load shedding to balance power
demand and supply and ensure that grid stability is achieved and sustained.
Regarding the question of Uganda having excess power
and why it has resorted to import, Nankabirwa said that the country’s installed
power generation capacity is 1378.1 megawatts, indicating excess generation
relative to the country’s peak system demand of about 900 megawatts. This
includes 50 megawatts of power export to Kenya.
She however said that the available generation
capacity, also referred to as firm capacity from the different generation plans
keeps changing on a day-to-day basis.
//Cue in: “the routine maintenance…//
Cue out:…age of equipment.”//
The Minister added that power from some of the plants
is not fully evacuated due to lack of transmission and distribution
infrastructure which government seeks to address through increased investment
in the sector.She told MPs that Uganda has no excess power parse since it is
generated but not uploaded on the national grid for transmission due to the absence
//Cue in: “you have different…//
Cue out:…evacuation and transmission.”//
Parliament learnt that during this week starting Monday
15th August, the available firm capacity is about 640 megawatts and
that the variance is a result of low hydrology, variability of the
grid-connected solar power plants routine maintenance for 1 unit of 50
megawatts at Bujagali, and the current outage at Isimba.
“It is important to note that without major breakdowns
on the system like loss of a major generation facility as experienced with
Isimba, Uganda’s current total generation capacity is sufficient to meet the current
electricity demand needs,” Nankabirwa said.
She assured parliament that appropriate measures are
being undertaken by Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited (UEGCL) to
restore power production at Isimba and that the costs associated with all the
required remedial works are still under assessment. She said that it is
expected that this will be accommodated within the operation and maintenance
budget for the plant as detailed investigations into the matter continue.
Deputy Speaker, Thomas Tayebwa said that it was
important for the Ministry to also address the country on the electricity consumable
capacity of the country compared to the generation and installed capacity.
//Cue in: “now we have…//
Cue out:…that’s poor planning.”//
Tayebwa also questioned why the Ministry never foresaw
the rain patterns and the possibility of flooding.
“This is a dam we commissioned not more than two
years ago, we know the rain patterns, so can we remedy it?” Tayebwa asked.
Alex Byarugaba, the Isingiro South MP said that
while he chaired the Natural Resources Committee in the Tenth Parliament, they
raised several questions about the dam and that their fears are now being born out."
//Cue in: “the flooding of…//
Cue out:…saving a lot.”//
Eddie Kwizera, the Bukimbiri County MP wondered
whether Uganda has the capacity to carry out an investigation into the flooding and
how it can be stopped.
//Cue in: “right honorable Speaker…//
Cue out:…out a study.”//
Agnes Atim Apea, Amolatar Woman MP said that there
is clearly poor planning for the country’s electricity generation. She wondered
why the shutdown of Isimba alone can affect the country severely yet the
country appropriates billions every financial year for deemed energy.
//Cue in: “if you know…//
Cue out:…fortunes very fast.”//
In response, Minister Nankabirwa said that the plant
flooded because of the maintenance works and not because of too much rainwater. She said that the Ministry will get the critical cause after the report
is fully compiled after the ongoing investigations.
The Deputy Speaker Tayebwa tasked the Minister to
present another report to Parliament after three weeks. But Nankabirwa said
that she was willing to provide weekly reports to parliament regarding Isimba
Tayebwa agreed to provide space on the order paper whenever
the Minister has a progress report to make and he also tasked parliament’s
Natural Resources Committee to carry out oversight on the matter.