Power Costs In Kalangala, Buvuma To Go Down As Islands Get Connected To National Power Grid

by Christopher Kiiza
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Power costs in the island districts of Kalangala and Buvuma will significantly drop as islands get connected to the national power grid, says power regulator, the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA).

The journey for grid connection to the islands begins at Bukakata switching station at Bukakata landing site in Masaka district where a submarine cable is being used to connect the main power grid to the islands.

The project, the first of its kind in the island districts, will link the islands, known for their tourism attraction and palm oil growing to the hydropower, which is expected to lower by half the power tariffs for both domestic and commercial consumers.

Residents of Kalangala and Buvuma have been relying on solar and diesel generators, which they have severally complained against for being too expensive.

Government has now constructed a supply powerhouse at Bukakata landing site in Masaka district and laid submarine cables on the bed of lake Victoria covering a distance of 6km to extended hydro power to the islands.

ERA CEO, Eng. Ziria Tibalwa Waako said the submarine cable project is expected to bring power tariffs in Kalangala to affordable levels and steer further growth.

“Kalangala, currently, the unit of electricity is around 1,300 shillings per token, [while] main grid is 797 [shillings]. So once we connect, automatically they move from the 1300 to the 797 of the main grid. So they will be very happy,” said Eng. Waako.

She added: “as we speak now, they (islanders) ferry maize to come and mill on the mainland because it is cheaper here, but that will cease. And it means that then we will now start to develop small to medium enterprises in Kalangala, and we will do job creation in Kalanga and value addition.”

The project to connect Kalangala and Buvuma to the national power grid, according to ERA Board Chairperson, Sarah Wasagali Kanaabi, is over 90% complete.

ERA CEO, Eng. Ziria Tibalwa Waako (L) and Chairperson, Sarah Wasagali Kanaabi (R) explain how connecting the islands to the main grid will lower the cost of electricity at the islands.

“By the end of next month, February, we expect the islands to be connected to the grid,” Mrs Kanaabi said.

How Will Main Grid Connection Impact The Economy Of Kalangala & Buvuma Islands

The connection of Kalangala and Buvuma Islands to the national power grid marks a significant economic shift, primarily driven by the discontinuation of reliance on diesel generators.

Mrs Kanaabi says the connection to the main grid will lead to reliability of power and significant reduction in energy costs, adding that businesses and households on the islands will benefit from more affordable and consistent power, fostering economic growth. 

“We are doing this basically to improve the reliability of power on the islands, but also to manage the cost of power on the islands, because, currently, the Kalangala Infrastructure Services is generating power using the solar and diesel, which is quite expensive. So once they are connected to the grid, it’s likely to lower the cost of electricity first of all, but also improve on the reliability and also on the connection rate,” Kanaabi said.

Bukoto East lawmaker, Ronald Kanyike concurs with ERA on tariff reduction.

“This project, mainly is to connect Kalangala to the national grid. The power tariff in Kalangala has been high. We believe that this project will lower the cost of doing business in Kalangala,” he said.

Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, Dr Emmanuel Otala (C) together with other lawmakers and ERA officials inspecting marine cable at Bukakata switching station in Masaka District.

The limited electricity generated by solar and diesel generators in Kalangala and Buvuma is predominantly focused in urban areas on the islands, excluding rural areas from access to power, impeding their developmental progress

Kanyike said the connection to the main grid opens up new possibilities for industrial development, enabling previously constrained industries reliant on diesel-generated power to flourish with a reliable and cost-effective energy source, fostering economic diversification that can contribute to a more robust and resilient economy.

Additionally, improved access to electricity can attract investments and spur tourism. Investors may be drawn to the islands for business ventures, leveraging the now more stable power supply. Meanwhile, tourism could flourish as the islands become more appealing with reliable electricity, potentially leading to the development of related infrastructure and services.

Value For Money

One of roles of Members of Parliament is oversight of resources allocated to different agencies of government.

To fulfill this obligation, MPs on the Committee of Environment and Natural Resources inspected the Bukakata switching station – the starting point of power connection to Kalangala and Buvuma islands to establish whether there is value for money allocated to the project.

The Committee Chairperson, Dr Emmanuel Otala said that the $7 million dollar project will boost economic activity in the two islands districts.

The Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, Dr Emmanuel Otala says connecting Kalangala and Buvuma to the main power grid will  boost economic activity in the two islands districts.
The Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, Dr Emmanuel Otala says connecting Kalangala and Buvuma to the main power grid will boost economic activity in the two islands districts.

“As you know, in Kalangala, there is palm oil, but also there are so many other economic activities. Tourists visit there, there are big hotels, they need electricity. So all those required reliable power,” said Otala.

 He added: “As you may be aware, one of our duties in oversight is to see whether government is getting value for money, and I can’t applaud government anymore when I see such an infrastructure being installed in place. So, really, this is value for money. As we have been assured by the contractor, in two months time, there is going to be commissioning of this project, such that power will be delivered and the people of Kalangala will be able to utilize reliable power for socio economic transformation.

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