Uganda’s power import plans in limbo as Isimba limps back to grid

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Uganda says it is reviewing earlier plans to import 60Mw of electricity from Kenya, after technicians […]

Uganda says it is reviewing earlier plans to import 60Mw of electricity from Kenya, after technicians managed to restore part of the supply from the stricken 183Mw Isimba hydropower station.

The power station went off the grid following a flooding incident in the power house on August 8.

In a statement published in the local press today, Ms Ruth Nankabirwa, the minister for energy, said the number two generation set had been restored and was supplying 45Mw to the grid. The statement was preceded by a video on Twitter Friday showing  the unit running.

“The operator, Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited UEGCL, is working around the clock to achieve full restoration of the plant by the end of August 2022,” she added.

The plant’s total outage had plunged the country into a power rationing schedule, prompting the activation of a 50Mw thermal plant, purchases of 20Mw from sugar miller Kakira Sugar Works; and plans to replace part of the lost capacity with imports of 60Mw from neighbours’ Kenya.

But officials now say the availability of 45Mw and the possibility of another unit becoming available in the next few days, dampens the need for imports. Further rationalization of the network would be explored instead, they said.

Engineers are bringing the plant back on-grid by draining the powerhouse and blow-drying affected equipment. They have also by-passed the electronic control system and the plant is being operated manually, said a source familiar with the situation.

“We have adequate manpower. The only thing that changes is that instead of relying on the automated system to operate the plant, we shall be watching over everything and intervening manually,” the source added.

Nankabirwa said August 16, that the emergency shutdown at Isimba was occasioned by a water ingress incident on August 8, which left the powerhouse flooded.

“The shutdown was undertaken as a safety procedure to ensure safety of staff and protection of the electro-mechanical equipment. The Operator, Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited UEGCL, is undertaking appropriate measures to restore power production and we expect generation to resume within three weeks,” she told media August 16.

The power rationing that followed the loss of 183Mw, raised questions about capacity reserves within Uganda’s generation system. Whereas peak demand, including export commitments stands at just 790Mw, composite installed capacity presently stands at 1250Mw.  Officials say the effective generation capacity along the River Nile, has been impacted by the long dry spell which resulted in lower water permit allocations.


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