Shs52b unpaid power bills force UPDF to turn to solar

By Nelson Wesonga

Kampala. Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) plans to switch to solar power to light up its different barracks across the country as a way to bring down the rising electricity bill.
This, according to Ms Rosette Byengoma, the Defence ministry permanent secretary, will be done through fixing solar panels and inverters in different barracks to extract and store natural energy.

The Ministry of Defence and Veterans Affairs, according to Ms Byengoma, currently has unpaid electricity bills in the excess of Shs52b.
“This debt continues to grow at a high rate because of the electricity used in UPDF barracks,” Ms Byengoma told the Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs.

“In view to reduce on this cost, all UPDF barracks are to be fitted with solar power generating facilities to generate their own power,” she said.
According to documents before the Committee on Commissions, State Enterprises and Statutory Authorities, as of April 2018, the Defence ministry accounted for 51.8 per cent of the Shs135b that the 986 government entities owed power distribution company, Umeme.

Government has since 2012 been urging ministries, departments and agencies to switch from postpaid billing to prepaid.
This followed reports that much as Parliament allocates such institutions and agencies money to pay bills, they are never paid to zero.

This, in essence, delays remittances to Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited because Section 5.3 of the Power Sales Agreement allows Umeme to withhold payment to UETCL whenever government entities delay to pay.
This, according to UETCL, impacts its ability to pay the electricity generation companies from which it gets the power.

Ms Byengoma told the committee that they plan to start with Kololo Independence Grounds and the Defence ministry has already conducted pre-shipment inspection of solar equipment in India for the panels to be installed at Kololo.
The inspection was to carry forward the factory acceptance tests to ensure that the solar components meet technical specifications spelt out in the feasibility study report.

It was also to check for warranties and guarantees, among other requirements.
The solar panels at Kololo should be in place by the end of this year. It is after the establishment at the Kololo Independence Grounds that the ministry will roll out installation in all barracks.

Solar potential. Uganda currently has a solar power potential of about 200 megawatts, only of which, 20 megawatts have been exploited and fed into the national grid. Uganda mainly relies on hydro and thermal electricity.

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