Foreign boost for hydro project: Ugandans remain skeptical

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Ugandan critics say the mini-hydro projects under construction won’t solve the country’s electricity capacity constraints because protracted under investment in generation infrastructure has produced a gap so immense that it will take years to plug.

Power supply problems are said to be the number one factor holding back Uganda’s economic growth, with most businesses unable to exploit their full potential on account of insufficient power.

But as an emergency effort to reduce widespread power outages, the Uganda government has in the last two years procured thermal power plants in partnership with private sector investors, however, the electricity produced has been exorbitantly priced and companies and households have been reeling under the burden of heavy electricity bills.

Tronder Power Limited, and a US company that provides renewable energy solutions have recently received a $49 million loan to develop two mini-hydro projects in Uganda, reports claim. The loan has been made available by the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund- an international private infrastructure financier founded by the governments of UK, Sweden, Netherlands and Switzerland for the Mpanga and Bugoye hydropower dams projects being constructed in Kamwenge and Kasese districts respectively.

The project, however, is a testament to the relative success of government’s policy of boosting the nation’s power supply. This is being achieved through a dual strategy of simultaneously harnessing the nation’s low-capacity renewable energy resources and developing large-scale projects like Bujagali and Karuma which is expected to partially plug the ever widening power deficit in the country and cut back on the frequent power outages, but the critics are still skeptical.

Despite the skepticisms by Ugandans, the government has placed a great deal of hope on the Bujagali project now under construction in Jinja which will yield 250MW on completion in 2011.

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