Gov’t Loses Sh100b Annually in Power Losses

by Christopher Kiiza
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The Government of Uganda loses US$28 million (over 100 billion shillings) in power losses every year, the sector regulator, the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) has revealed.

The ERA CEO, Eng. Ziria Tibalwa Waako said on Friday, August 4, 2023 that the losses are mainly attributed to power theft and illegal connections.

“The loss factor is at about 20%, 14% of that is in the distribution network. And out of the 14%, 7% is attributed to power loss, power theft and illegal connections. Now, 7% of power, each percentage is $4 million dollars. So, you are talking about $28 million per annum,” said Eng. Waako at the sidelines of the Installation Permit Conference in Kampala on Friday where ERA was meeting electricity installation permit holders of Class D and C.

Other than theft and illegal connections, the electricity sub sector also suffers technical losses which occur due to power dissipation in Transmission and Distribution conductors because of various factors, including conductor capacity and network conditions, and commercial losses, mainly caused by electricity users engaging in practices such as vandalism of equipment.

However, in the past 20 years of the Electricity Supply Industry (ESI), ERA says a lot has been put in place to ensure energy losses significantly drop.

Some of the interventions include; huge investment into high tech infrastructure such as ABC conductors that limit illegal connections, a shift from postpaid to prepaid metering system (Yaka) to grow revenue collection, enactment of policies such as Free Electricity Connections Policy to grow access among other initiatives.

Other interventions include, certification of electricians to get rid of uncertified wire men who contribute heavily to power losses by facilitating illegal power connections.

The Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, Ruth Nankabirwa, ERA Board Chairperson, Sarah Wasagali Kanaabi and ERA CEO Eng. Ziria Tibalwa Waako pose for a photo with certified electricians in Kampala.

ERA certifies and authorizes wire persons to carryout proper electrical installation on premises. Certified electricians are issued permits that classify the amount of power they are authorized to install. The permit class determines the electrician’s power installation capabilities.

For instance, Class A permit holder is certified to carry out all and any kind of class of electrical installation work, Class B carries out electrical installation work of such medium value or complexity, including heavy low voltage and simple high voltage connections up to 11 kV while Class C permit holder is authorized to carry out electrical installation work of such small value including: installation in multi-storied flats and other big bungalows and mansions of complex design and commercial buildings; or installation of light plants of up to a level of 415 volts.

Permit holder of Class D is authorized to Carry out work restricted to any specialised class of electrical installation work, including: installation of residential premises not exceeding five bedrooms; and repairs on equipment of up to 240 volts, while Class Z permit holder is certified to carry out specialised fields like: switch gear installation; centralised cooling and refrigeration; installation of generator sets; solar systems; and electrical installation systems and designs.

Eng. Waako while meeting installation permit holders of Class D and C, said the illegal power connections are implemented partly by kamyufu (noncertified electricians), but also certified wire men who are not sensitized and engaged to do the right work.

“There is no person who doesn’t understand the electricity that will go and connect electricity illegally. It is either the subsisting wire men or wire men that defaulted and defected because of failure to comply with the required standards that propagate that,” she said.

To curb the challenge, Eng. Waako said the pre signing of a power installation completion certificate by an electrician before completing the wiring is now considered fraud. She explained that every wire man must digitally generate a certificate of completion at the premises after carrying out the electrical installation.

“We have digitized the process. There is no illegal forging of a completion certificate. A completion certificate is generated digitally at the premise by certified wire man. That way, the forgery that has been happening through pre signing of completion certificates, (that creates a hazard where non certified wire men do the work, but buy a completion certificate to connect electricity to that installation), we have sorted that. That one is now solved. The other one is that we are coming up with a database funded by the African Development Bank. This database is going to address customer complaints in real time, meaning the public once we sensitize them, they will join us to ensure that we enforce proper performance of the sector. They now have opportunity to, in real time using their small devices raise these complaints,” she said.

She added: “the other one (solution) is to do with the improvements in the in the distribution network. Those have to do with increased investments in the electricity distribution network to ensure that we have a robust network that can sustain the business that we are undertaking, especially now that we are going to grow the number of connections which comes with increased demand. We are going to upgrade the network; we are going to continue to digitize. For example, the transmission company now has digitized identification of faults along the transmission lines as well as now we have remote meters that speak to us when theft is happening. Those are some of the initiatives that we are undertaking to ensure that this loss factor of 20% comes below to a level of single digit losses.”

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