Uganda: Prolonged drought affecting hydroelectric power production

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KAMPALA, 25 January (IRIN) - Prolonged drought has significantly affected the water levels on Lake Victoria, reducing Uganda's hydroelectric power generation capacity and increasing power shortages across the country, the energy minister said on Tuesday.

"The prolonged drought in both Rwanda and Tanzania, where many of the tributaries start from, has had an effect on the amount of water flowing downstream on [the] River Nile," Syda Bumba told IRIN. "Consequently, our two power stations have been under performing by 50 MW. This is a serious reduction in commercial terms and that is why we have had load shedding in all civic centres."

Global warming, the minister added, had also increased the rate of evaporation on the lake reducing the amount of water used at the country's two power stations, Kiira and Nalubaale. The stations are located near the source of the River Nile, east of the capital, Kampala.

According to the minister, Uganda had turned to neighbouring Kenya for relief.

"We are negotiating with Kenya for an arrangement to import power during the day so that we could reduce load shedding during that time and we hope to come up with something in the next two weeks," she added, without divulging how much power Kenya would provide.

A statement by the Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited had, however, indicated that even without the drought problem, demand for power in Uganda had exceeded supply.

"At present, with demand exceeding supply, we have overstretched the capacity that is available," the statement said, warning that load shedding was likely to increase.

Uganda's two dams at full capacity could produce 270 MW of electricity, but according to officials from the energy ministry, demand for power stands at 340 MW. The annual power demand has also increased by 11.5 percent.

Noting that the rural areas of Uganda were underpowered, Bumba said a few projects were at hand, including proposals to generate between 50 and 75 MW of power using municipal waste, with a focus on using geothermal electricity in some areas of the country.

"We hope that these sources will address the issue of over reliance on hydropower," she added. "We are also looking at more hydropower from smaller rivers across the country to feed their localities with electricity."

Uganda is hoping that the situation could improve by July, when more rainfall is expected. The rainfall would restore production capacity to 270 MW and enable the commissioning of two other turbines on Nalubaale power station that would add another 80 MW onto the national grid.

There are also plans to go ahead with the controversial Bujagali, which could produce 250 MW dam at a cost US $530 million. It is to be located down the river from the current dams.

The project has been marred by controversy over bidding and stiff opposition from environmentalists concerned that the dam would drown the culturally important Bujagali Falls. Bumba said Bujagali could be ready by 2009 and three years later, another power station at Karuma would add 150 MW onto the national grid.


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