Kampala, (UG): Members of Parliament sitting on the Natural Resources and Environment Committee alongside the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA), recently visited electricity generation plants at Kakira (Jinja) and Bufulubi in Mayuge to assess the performance of those plants and the challenges they face.
The committee which is on a 5-day tour of energy generation plants across Eastern and Northern regions, held interactions with the management of Kakira and Bufulubi Solar Park to appreciate how much energy they are (each) able to generate, upload to the national grid, consume and how they intend to increase on generation capacity.
Dr Emmanuel Otaala, the Chairperson of the committee commended ERA for making necessary arrangements for the members to do their oversight as the government aims to generate 52000MW in the medium term. Kakira Sugar Limited was the first to Co-generate and was licensed to generate 50MW of which 20MW is being used by the factory while 30MW goes to the national grid.
“I thank the committee for always finding time to be with ERA in the field in terms of oversight for the Electricity Supply Industry. Every year, you move with us around. ERA has 54 generation plants using various technologies and KSL was the first to Co-generate” she said in a meeting between MPs, ERA and KSL management led by the Director of Operations Christian Vincke at KSL boardroom.
Vincke however, informed members that the generation capacity of KSL is being hampered by lack of raw materials (sugarcane) for making bagasse which is used for making electricity.
The team touring KSL generation plant
“What we’re doing now is far below our capacity because of lack of raw materials. We used to generate 48MW, but now we can’t. We have less sugarcane in the area” KSL deputy electrical engineering manager Salim Kalibusi informed members.
In fact, when members toured the power plant, it was discovered that sugarcane/bagasse scarcity has forced KSL to scale down on generation by now producing merely 8.4MW of which 2.1MW is exported.
Vincke noted that the lack of a law to regulate the Sugar Industry in the country is a big challenge. He said such a regulation would address the issue of the location of sugar factories to avoid unnecessary competition like it is the case now.
“Uganda is a big country. So, why fix them (factories) near each other? KSL is an asset to Uganda paying between Shs150-200bn in taxes. Look at what others pay. We feel we are badly treated, it’s not good at all” he said, adding that Uganda’s problem is not about having more factories but more sugarcane which he said would guarantee enough sugar production.
“We have demanded for a regulation on location of sugar factories, Government let us down. I am disappointed Uganda is going in the wrong direction. Those days Busoga was famous for growing cassava and potatoes but nowadays, people grow sugarcanes right up to the doorsteps. Will there be food anymore? Please (members) help us” he begged.
“Uganda is too big. Put factories where they can develop and grow but not anywhere” he advised.
Meanwhile, committee boss Otaala assured that members were going to take up the matter seriously, and revealed that the government is already working on the Sugar Bill which is now before the House Committee on Trade and Industry.
“Government is working on the Sugar Bill. We take your concerns very seriously and we’re going to express them to the trade and Industry committee to expedite this bill” he assured them.
Meanwhile, ERA C.E.O Eng. Ziria Tibalwa Waako demanded to know what KSL is doing to address issues of child labour, environment and workers’ rights. She said ERA on its own has so far planted over 2000 trees in an effort to preserve the environment and also contribute to rainfall formation.
“We want trees to make rain, we want trees to support the environment” she said to which Vincke said KSL’s policy on child labour is strict to the extent that if a farmer is caught employing kids, he gets blocked from supplying canes to the factory.
During the tour, the MPs and stakeholders also visited Bufulubi Solar Park in Mayuge where they were taken through its generation capacity.
According to the site manager Micheal Mukasa, the plant sitting on 100 acres of land courtesy of a 30-year lease from Busoga kingdom, started operations in 2019 and produces 10MW. He said the project focuses on three core areas health, education and climate.
“We’re happy to host members because such visits help us assess our operations and see which areas to improve upon. I thank ERA for their guided leadership because with that; we have been able to get results” he submitted.
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