Energy ministry blames current loadshedding to vandalism of electricity infrastructure

Kampala – The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development has attributed the current loadshedding in some parts of the country to increased vandalism of electricity infrastructure.

Addressing Journalists at Uganda Media Center  in Kampala on Tuesday, the State Minister for Energy and Mineral Development Okaasai Sidronius Opolot said the loadshedding of about 104MW commenced on November 13th.

“For a while, the vice occurred randomly within isolated black spots but on a small scale. However, the scale and scope of vandalism have intensified into a systematic and well coordinated organised crime syndicate,” said Minister Opolot.

He noted that the increase in the vice’s magnitude affects completed lines and ongoing projects.

Most of the vandalism cases are reported in the districts of Mukono, Kayunga, Buikwe, Jinja, Kamuli, Iganga, Mayuge, Bugiri, Busia, Tororo, Mbale, Soroti, Lira, Oyam, Kole, Kiryandongo, Luwero, Mpigi, Masaka, Kyotera, Mbarara, Bushenyi, Kiruhura, Kazo, Isingiro, Ntungamo, Kasese, and Busia.

Over the weekend, two 132kV transmission lines from the Jinja-based 180MW Nalubale and 200MW Kira Hydropower Plants were vandalised, leading to extensive power blackouts in Central and Western Uganda.

The 132kV Owen Falls-Lugogo Transmission Line was vandalised at Kivuvu village in Mukono district, leading to four towers falling on the ground on Saturday, November 12th. Subsequently, the Owen Falls-Mukono North-Mulago Transmission Line was also vandalised at Nasuuti village in Mukono district, leading to one tower falling on the ground on Sunday, November 13th.

Impact of vandalism

Minister Opolot said the rampant vandalism of electricity infrastructure remains a major impediment to delivering quality and reliable power supply, especially to critical sectors such as Health and Manufacturing. “It equally increases power project development costs, frustrates efforts to expand the Grid and accelerate access to electricity services for all Ugandans, and has overall effects on the Economy,” noted the minister.

He revealed that over Shs2 billion is spent annually to replace vandalised power lines, on average. 

“Replacing the five newly vandalised transmission towers will cost Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL) over Shs1 billion (over Shs200 million each).” He said

As part of the remedial actions, the minister said the sector has been forced to commence power load-shedding of about 104MW, effective November 13, 2022.

“The 220kV Bujagali-Kawanda evacuation line is temporarily being used to partly evacuate Nalubale and Kira power plants alongside Bujagali and Isimba power plants,” he says

The minister also said they have switched on the expensive 50MW Namanve Thermal Power Plant, which is always on standby for emergencies.

He further noted that UETCL is constructing temporary structures to restore the faulted transmission lines – which are estimated to be completed by November 18, 2022.

Measures to curb vandalism

Opolot says the ministry shall heighten collaboration with Security Agencies to investigate, arrest, and prosecute vandals before the courts of law.

Through the Electricity (Amendment) Act 2022, the Government has placed more stringent penalties for vandalism-related offences. 

The law prescribes a 12-year jail sentence, or a fine of 50,000 Currency Points (Ush. 1 billion) or both for a vandal or anyone who receives vandalised electricity materials, and 15 years of imprisonment or 100,000 Currency Points (Ush. 2 billion) or both for repeated violations.