ESCAPE FROM THE LORDS OF DARKNESS APPARENTLY NOT IN THIS LIFETIME
East Africas power companies and distributors, now widely termed the Dark Lords for their inability to keep the countries supplied with sufficient electricity, have gone both defensive and offensive at the same time in recent weeks. While denying the obvious, which is an abysmal failure in advance planning and creating the capacities required to meet the expanding energy needs as were projected 10 and more years ago they also down-talk system losses and often rotten infrastructure which needs urgent replacement. On the offensive side they are now trying to use media consultants and charm to sweet talk the public in to accepting continued misery, which in particular in the cities and towns across the region is marked by power outages every other night, as here in Uganda.
Small businesses are driven out of existence due to lack of power every other day, and those which survived somehow are now faced with tariff increases of 40 and more percent, which in the estimate of informed analysts and observers will lead to a wide spread increase in power theft as bills become unaffordable.
In Uganda, the much hailed Bujagali 250 MW hydro electric power plant is still not producing, after the repeatedly delayed final commissioning date of late November or early December was missed again, and by some considerable timeframe it seems as even the latest possible start up of February this year is now under doubt, made worse by the company simply not owning up and offering the public a detailed explanation and revised commissioning schedule. And to compound matters further, some expert opinions have now began filtering into the public domain that the planned Karuma Falls hydro electric station may take as much as 10 years to complete, which would plunge the country back into power rationing and darkness once the 250 MW from Bujagali have been soaked up by growing demand, more consumers being connected to the grids and the absence of fresh supplies from other new power stations. Admittedly, a few stand alone grid plants are being introduced or have been commissioned last year, and Kinyara Sugar apparently also plans to put up a power plant to become self sufficient and sell surplus to the national grid operators, as Kakira Sugar is successfully doing already, but those are now seen as drops on a hot stone. Heavy fuel oil plants, planned to go on line this year, had crude oil production taken off as enthusiastically projected by government bodies, were supposed to ensure sufficient capacity but with the ongoing disputes over oil contracts parliament maintains a stand that Tullow Oil has no valid license and contract at present as well as tax, policy and regulation issues unresolved, that may take yet a few years longer too before the implementation phase takes off.
Until then, the outlook is dark, pun fully intended, uncertain at best as to how East Africa is going to still the growing hunger for electricity, which is a key ingredient for further economic growth and to keep people sitting at home watching football matches rather than taking to the streets protesting. Anyone listening out there? Well they better are unless they are ready to face the music, in darkness most likely