Uganda’s energy sector added to its energy generation surplus this year as new power stations went live.
Meanwhile user demand projections have increased but rising power tariffs have denied several people access to electricity, while transmission and distribution challenges mean power blackouts remain a key feature in many households.
The country’s installed generation capacity is estimated at 960 megawatts while active generation capacity stands at 700 megawatts according to energy industry sources.
This scenario points to idle generation capacity suffered by the large hydro power plants and small thermal generation facilities.
In comparison, the country’s peak power demand levels have grossed 640 megawatts this year, a figure that translates into a modest surplus of 60MW on the national grid.
Industrial users account for nearly 70 per cent of Uganda’s electricity consumption basket, distribution statistics show while new factories and industrial plants that are in the pipeline are expected to wipe out the surplus in less than five years, sources hinted.
This offers investors motivation for more energy projects.
“The small electricity surplus on the national grid is not sustainable because of pending demand pressures from new factories and production plants already in the pipeline.
“These production facilities require around 14-20 megawatts per day and this is enough to wipe out this surplus,” Selestino Babungi, Umeme Ltd’s managing director said.
“Though Isimba and Karuma dams will be commissioned next year, they are likely to produce less than installed output capacity at the start, meaning that much of the of the electricity will be fully absorbed by new factories that will be going live in 2019. This leaves a sizeable future power demand gap that needs to be filled through additional investments in mini hydro stations,” Mr Babungi added.
“These plants help ease outage problems experienced across the national grid because they usually serve remote areas that are not catered for by the national grid. However, balancing the weight of power tariffs and efficiency demands in our operations is never easy,” he argued.
New factories commissioned this year include Mandela Millers Ltd with a daily power consumption rate of 14MW and Tiang Tang Ltd — a steel products manufacturer with daily power consumption of 20MW.
A new fertiliser, cement and glass production plant recently commissioned in Eastern Uganda requires 20MW daily while a new public water treatment plant under construction in Mukono District is to be commissioned in 2021 and will consume 20MW per day, according to Umeme records.
Some seven power stations are still under construction and are scheduled for commissioning by close of 2020.
These are Siti III with a generation capacity of 16MW, Kyambura with 7.6MW, Sindila with 6.5MW, Ndugut with 5.9MW, Kikagati with 16MW and Waki with 4.8MW.
But relatively high electricity tariffs remain a headache for both households and businesses, particularly because of high capital expenditure incurred by investors and a direct peg that links power prices to changes in global oil prices, inflation rates and the exchange rate.
Persistent increases in electricity tariffs have piled significant pressure on government to terminate Umeme Ltd’s 20 year distribution concession agreement that expires in 2025, though it finally opted for renegotiation last week as opposed to an expensive, contract cancellation that would have cost the country roughly Ush500 billion ($134 million) in exit charges.
Retail consumer tariffs have steadily increased from Ush669 ($0.18) per unit in mid-2017 to Ush712 ($0.19) per unit in January 2018 and stood at Ush769 ($0.2) per unit at the beginning of October, according to ERA data.
“Government needs to fix the high electricity tariffs sooner in order to expand access to the electricity grid for poor, rural consumers.
“Most of them can hardly afford to spend Ush20,000($5) on prepaid electricity every month while middle income people also struggle with huge power bills,” Phillip Sendawula, chief finance officer at Exim Bank Uganda said.
“I spend around Ush60,000 ($16) per month on electricity for my domestic water heater, which is prohibitive for me. There is need to encourage rural people to embrace alternative sources of energy such as solar and biogas that are critical for tackling the problem of diminished firewood supplies around the country,” Mr Sendawula added.
Rising electricity tariffs have partly inspired cyber hacking schemes targeted at Umeme’s prepaid metering system.
A latest online advert posted in a local Facebook group revealed a strange, criminal offer; a hacker asking for $1 to tamper with one’s prepaid electricity meter and obtain more units for few shillings.
For instance, Ush3,000 ($0.8) would yield 15 units of power from a hacked meter compared with four units of electricity bought for the same amount at the current price after the first monthly purchase.
We were not able to authenticate these claims by the time of going to press.
“When the price reduces, more people are able to afford electricity. Lower electricity prices also mean cheaper manufactured products in the medium term.
“Since the refinancing of the Bujagali dam loan facilities, power demand levels among manufacturers have risen by an average of seven per cent due to the applied three per cent discount in the local industrial electricity tariff,” said Ziria Tibalwa Waako, ERA’s chief executive officer.
Under the refinancing deal arranged by the African Development Bank and its partners, the loan repayment period attached to $400 million worth of debt provided to Bujagali Energy Limited was extended from 2023 to 2032 in a move that eased debt repayment pressures faced by the project.
“As a result, industrial electricity tariffs charged against extra-large industries dropped to 5 US cents during the off peak period while smaller industrial producers are equally eligible for this incentive in the near future.
“Very large firms targeted in the first phase of the power tariff reduction exercise have seen their energy costs go down but spillover gains for consumers have not materialised because of the less regulated market that we operate in.
“The economy is still struggling, household spending is down and consumer demand is low. This has led to reduced production levels in local industries despite the tariff cut. As a result, my production capacity levels have dropped to about 49 per cent,” said Deo Kayemba, the CEO of East African Roofing Systems, a building materials manufacturer.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
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Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
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Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
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Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.