A powerline rises and dips as it makes its way from the surging Bukwo District countryside to Mbale city in eastern Uganda.
Upstream, water gushes through Siti 2 small hydropower plant, spinning turbines and generating electric current.
Electrons then flow from the plant to a substation in Mbale city, where they are stepped down for safety reasons, and dispersed to electricity consumers.
Whereas the traditional way of transporting electricity from generation plants to customers is through high voltage cables, due to the absence of a transmission line to/from Bukwo, the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) approved the construction of an interim medium voltage link.
Power utility Umeme Limited implemented the USD 9.2 million project, which has mitigated the lack of a transmission grid from Siti 2 to Mbale distribution substation onward to Tangshan industrial park.
Speaking to the media recently on the significance of the undertaking, Umeme’s Managing Director Selestino Babungi said, “We believe this line will be important given the government’s strategy of promoting industrialization to create jobs.”
Government has since 2008 been offering investors sweeteners like land and tax holidays to establish factories in Uganda.
It reasons that industries will mop up the surplus electricity and unemployment thus, minimize the likelihood of the jobless youth turning to crime to make ends meet.
With the commissioning of the 125-kilometre (km) Siti 2 powerline, should supply from Tororo be disrupted by either faults or maintenance work, domestic, commercial, and industrial power users in Mbale and its environs will have an alternative.
The line, located 354km East of Kampala, is one of many across Uganda that ERA has approved over the years.
In the last 20 years, the main arteries for distribution of Uganda’s plentiful electricity have spread from Jinja to Kampala, Entebbe, Masaka, Fort Portal, Hoima, Masindi, Gulu, Lira, Soroti, Kitgum in the North, Kisoro in the West, and other areas.
The distribution network has expanded by 197.2 per cent since 2005 to 49,633 kilometres, as of December 2019.
And from only 292,000 customers clustered in Kampala, Entebbe, Jinja, Tororo and Mbale, there are now 1,655,042 million electricity consumers spread across Uganda.
In the distribution segment, close to USD 700 million has been invested by Umeme alone between 2005 when the company secured a 20-year power distribution concession and 2020.
The money has been sunk in connections to the grid, powerlines, substations/transformers, switching stations and capacitor banks to stabilize electric current.