Kalangala’s power plant underutilised
The newly-commissioned solar thermal power project in Kalangala district is operating below capacity because of less demand in the area.
According to Kalangala Infrastructure Services Ltd [KIS], the company charged with developing different infrastructure services on a public-private partnership [PPP] with the government, the power plant has a maximum capacity of 1.6 megawatts [MW]. However, the company adds, only 400 kilowatts [KW] are being consumed.
“We are currently operating at 400KW only. Now, the implication of having a 1.6MW against a demand of 400KW is that we are still bringing up the customer base. We want more investors to come and utilize this resource,” said John Opiro, the managing director of KIS.
Opiro was speaking during the commissioning of the second ferry, MV Ssese at Bugala island in Kalangala district last week. The aim of this project is to change the face of Kalangala economically by encouraging tourists and investors to flock the region as the infrastructure improves.
Kalangala town has been receiving thermal electricity from Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Limited, usually between 9am and midnight. Opiro pointed out that the high cost that comes with connectivity has made power expensive.
“The cost of connection is still high for our people of Kalangala. Our target was to bring the cost of connection to Shs 250,000, [from Shs 400,000] if the earthling installation were the same as those on the mainland,” he noted.
He continued: “… while developing this project, we anticipated this component [low customer base] in the project. We [therefore] intend to connect 2,000 customers free of charge. That would mean we could expand the customer base by around 800KW and that is enough for our system to operate optimally.”
The minister for Works and Transport, John Byabagambi, said: “What we agreed upon as a PPP is fulfilled and I think KIS is among the best PPPs we have in this country,” he said.
“The new ferry operations will not be any different from the MV Pearl. The two ferries will operate 16 times a day crossing each other, thus lessening the burden of traffic for the people of Bugala island and Bukakata.”
Kalangala district Woman MPCarol Nanyondo Birungi commended KIS and advised residents to think of bankable business ideas and take advantage of the electricity.
Opiro said taking away the connection charges was part of the cost of the contractor. He added that this would ramp up the connection rate on the island.
The new ferry, MV Ssese, is part of the PPP infrastructure project by KIS and the government set out to develop Bugala island. Crossing from the island to mainland takes about 20 minutes and the service is free of charge for all the inhabitants as it is catered for by the government. The ferry services are to ease transport and the cost of doing business between Bukakata and Luuku island.
The project was financed through equity and debt from InfraCo, Nedbank from South Africa, and Uganda Development Corporation, among others. The entire project cost is $50m.