KAMPALA: West Nile Parliamentary Caucasus Chairperson, Mr Lawrence Biyika Songa has exonerated regional power distributor—saying that WENRECo wasn’t solely responsible for power reliability challenges in the region.
Mr. Songa, also the Member of Parliament for Ora County in Zombo District and Chairperson of the powerful Climate Change Committee in Parliament told the media that West Nile sub-region issues were specifically on generation but not supply.
“Its like WENRECO being given 10 water bottles. When given, that’s what you distribute. If they get finished, I stop there and if there are more people, it means I need more water bottles! This is the situation WENRECO finds itself in. Many people don’t know that WENRECO is a distributor not generator of power. If you give him low electricity, he will supply what you have given him and when it gets finished, he stops there,” Songa said.
WENRECo is the electric energy distribution company in the West Nile sub-region of the Northern Uganda.
The region covers; Packwach, Nebbi , Arua, Yumbe, Moyo, Madi-Okolo, Adjumani, Koboko, Terego and Oraba.
On Nyagak I, a hydropower plant operated by WENRECo, Mr. Songa told reporters that the MPs on the Environment and Natural Resources Committee had visited the site and confirmed power production was effective but noted that water levels were effective the plant from generating power to its capacity.
“We have visited the plant (Nyagak I) but you release that climate change issues can’t allow it to perform to its expectations (3.5 Megawatts) all the year. The solution to this, is getting West Nile sub-region connected to the National Grid and we have all these power generation challenges sorted out once and for all,” he said acknowledging information gaps in power generation and supply chain.
He tasked WENRECo and the regulator to explain some of the dynamics in the sector to other players including the final consumer.
Songa, however, launched a scathing dig at a private power generator—Electoromax for failing to produce power despite having installed machines of a higher capacity.
“Electoromax should be put to task to produce power and give it to WENRECO the distributor. Let there be fuel. Otherwise, in our motion, that’s why we want Electoromax to be relieved of the component of (procurement) fuel and we get an independent supplier. This is what we put in our motion. WENRECO is not the problem at all,” he said.
Dr Orombi speak out
Bishop Henry Luke Orombi, the retired Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Uganda dismissed the allegations against WENRECo as wanting in facts—saying that the West Nile power distributor was instead being targeted on insufficient grounds.
Bishop Orombi, who served as Archbishop of Uganda and Bishop of Kampala from 2004 until his retirement in December 2012, now staying at his retirement home in Goli, Nebbi District told this website that whereas the region faces power challenges, actors needed to appreciate the work and level of investments made by private players like WENRECo who entered the region at a time when the region wasn’t commercially viable.
He explained that as of 2012, when he first came to reorganize his country home for his retirement, the electricity supply situation was so bad that it would be a miracle for electricity to be on for even 4 hours a day.
“Service then was very unreliable and it was total blackout. We had to use firewood to cook and to boil water. I parted with Shs22m to invest in solar for lighting the home. All this has changed and for the last three years, there has been noticeable improvement though power supply problems still remain, for the larger West Nile,” said Orombi told us—aiming a major dig against players who were using blackmail to frustrate investors.
Dr. Orombi said that for instance part of the challenge constraining power generation relates to the fact that River Nyagak’s water levels keep fluctuating whenever it comes to a dry season.
This is something, he said, no sensible person can blame on WENRECO.
He said electricity-related problems are also affecting access to other key basic services like clean and running water which he said Eng Silver Mugisha’s NWSC has done so well making available but the effectiveness of the water system too has continued to be hampered by electricity problems which he says can only be sustainably solved through building more dams, leveraging on other rivers, besides getting the region onto the national grid connectivity.
He said he is full of praises for WENRECO because personally he these days is assured of 24 hour service access and connectivity to run his lighting, heating and refrigeration needs. His property is a big one with the vast main house and guest wings all of which he confessed are well supplied with electricity 24/7.
“Given the magnitude of my usage like I have explained and showed you, I can’t call it expensive or unaffordable when my average bill is just Shs200,000 every two months,” Orombi explained as he conducted journalists around his Goli massive retirement property.
He said he has no problem with those who petitioned Parliament or even the Speaker for insisting to inquire the agreement raised or disclosed in the petition but the inquest should focus on the larger picture, while recommending broader interventions the government needs to undertake to sustainably address the inadequate electricity supply problems for West Nile, as opposed to merely targeting WENRECO or even Electro Maxx parse.
“WENRECO as a supplier cannot supply power unless Nyagak I Hydro plant and Electromaxx generate the electricity. However, the biggest problems they currently face are;
1. Nyagak’s failure to generate the 3.5 Megawatts, operating way below its capacity because of the seasonal dry spell. Electromaxx’ lack of fuel to generate the thermal electricity, yet their efforts to secure money for fuel from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development and the National Oil Company to buy the fuel have not yielded any fruits yet,” said Judith Wangoic, the WENRECO spokesperson.
Residents angared by National Grid deadline extension
Previously, the government had set September 30, 2022, as the deadline for connecting the sub-region to the national grid, but it has now been postponed to March next year due to incomplete works on the transmission lines and power substations.
Parliament calls for calm
Dr. Emmauel Otaala, the committee chairperson, blamed the extension of the deadline to the COVID-19 pandemic, which he said greatly affected the works.
He, however, called for calm, noting that government is committed in ensuring the region gets reliable power supply to spur social economic transformation.
The visit by parliaments Environment and Natural Resource Committee comes just a few days after parliament on Thursday, 11 August 2022 adopted a motion, urging government to immediately address the electricity supply challenges in the West Nile region.
The motion follows a petition to the speaker of parliament Anita Among, by a citizens’ coalition code named “The Citizens Action for Improved Public Service Delivery in West Nile” (CAIPS) over intermittent electricity supply in the Sub-region.
In 2020, government contracted KEC International Limited (India) and a joint venture of AVIC International Holding Corporation and Central Southern China Electric Power design Insitute Company Limited to undertake the grid extension project.
According to Hiranmoy Talukdar, the consultant of the project, the overall progress of the works is at 67-percent.