Electricity exports to the Countries neighbouring Uganda rose by 28 per cent between 2018 and 2019, the latest publicly-available Electricity Supply Industry Performance Report says.
Sales increased from 233.1 Giga Watt Hours (GWh) to 299.2 GWh largely due to requests by Kenya whose western transmission grid was constrained by faults.
Over the same period, Uganda’s inflows from the exports increased from $36.40 million to $44.57 million.
Given that electricity cannot be stored, power trade among Eastern and Central Africa countries presents an opportunity to reduce excess reserve capacity in the medium term.
As of December 2019, Uganda’s installed capacity was 1,252.4 Megawatts (MW), while total peak demand was 723.8 MW.
Up to 94.3 MW of the power consumed during peak hours was exported to Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
While sales to Kenya and DRC increased by 61 per cent and 14 per cent accordingly, those to Tanzania and Rwanda decreased by 13 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.
An Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) statement subtitled Demand Growth Measures says Uganda’s electricity export potential is 390 MW.
“To fully benefit from the regional energy market, regional interconnection projects are being fast-tracked and their implementation aligned with the commissioning dates of the power plants,” reads an excerpt of the statement.
To that end, the Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited, the entity licensed by ERA to export and import power, among other roles, is investing in interconnection projects.
Note that in 2005, seven countries – Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, and Sudan – signed a Memorandum of Understanding instituting the East African Power Pool (EAPP).
Uganda joined the Pool in 2012.
The EAPP’s goals include promoting power exchange among the region’s electricity utilities as well as investment in regional generation, transmission, and distribution projects.
The transmission projects include the Bujagali-Tororo-Lessos line between Uganda and Kenya, the Mbarara-Mirama line (Uganda-Rwanda interconnection), Masaka-Mwanza (Uganda-Tanzania interconnection) and the Nkenda-Beni-Rutshuru as well as Beni-Bunia (Uganda-DRC interconnection) and the Olwinyo-Nimule-Juba interconnection lines.
The cost of the Lessos, Juba and Mpondwe projects is about $600 Million, a chunk of it borrowed from development partners.
State Minister for Energy Simon D’Ujanga has repeatedly spoken in support of electricity exports, saying it is part of regional cooperation in the energy sector.
Besides providing an outlet for excess electricity, cross-border electricity trade provides stability of power supply in case the system in one country fails – in other words, interconnecting grids contributes to power supply security/stability.
That said, electricity trade in East Africa is traceable to 1954 when Uganda, smarting from a decline in domestic sales, inked an agreement with Kenya, to sell bulk power to the latter.
Between the 2000 and 2019 calendar years, Uganda has bagged $386.6 million, according to Bank of Uganda March 2021 data, from the sale of some of its surplus electricity to the neighbouring countries.