The European Union (EU) will invest 60 million euros (equivalent to 240 billion shillings) to upgrade Uganda’s oldest power stations, Nalubaale (formerly Owen Falls Dam) and Kiira hydropower plant plants which were commissioned in 1954 and 2000 respectively.
The Nalubaale and Kiira hydropower plant complex located at the source of Nile River in Jinja produces about 380 megawatts (MW) of power, with Nalubaale generating 180MW while Kiira – 200MW.
The EU investment aims to address a portion of the financial shortfall for the country’s aging energy infrastructure.
“We’ll be investing some 60 million euros … in the rehabilitation of Kiira and Nalubaale hydropower plant in order to provide reliable energy for Uganda’s industrialisation,” said Jan Sadek, the EU’s ambassador to Uganda.
Sadek said the funding will be advanced under the EU’s global gateways strategy, which is designed to help meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
For seven months now, the Naluubale – Kiira hydro power plant complex is operated by the government owned company – the Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited (UEGCL) after the expiration of a 20-year electricity generation concession by a South African electricity public utility, Eskom.
Eskom made a significant investment of USD 52 million in the complex. As part of this investment, two-thirds of the funds were allocated to Nalubaale that has been operating for close to 7 decades.
The EU funding comes at a time when Uganda is endeavoring to increase generation capacity of electricity.
Currently, Uganda’s electricity generation capacity stands at 1,678.1 MW, of which 1,562.2MW supplies the main grid, 13.98MW is off grid and 102.5 MW is for own consumption.
This generation capacity is expected to increase to 2,000 MW when the 600MW Karuma Hydropower Plant (the largest hydro power plant in Uganda) is fully commissioned.
The country’s electricity generation capacity target is 52,000 MW by 2040.
But how feasible will it be for Uganda to achieve this target (52,000MW by 2040), given the amount of funds needed, and the country’s capacity or lack of capacity to invest heavily in the electricity generation segment to hit the target.
Uganda has a number of energy sources that include; hydro, biomass, geothermal, solar among others. However, hydro dominates all of them combined.
This means that for the country to achieve its 2040 target of 52,000MW generation capacity, hydro must play a very vital role.
However, the precedence set by Karuma hydro power station (600MW) and Nyagak hydro power plant (6.6MW) raises skepticism about Uganda’s ability and commitment to achieve a generation capacity of 52,000MW by 2040.