BY AMBROSE GAHENE
Pallisa: Leading power distributor Umeme has picked up the threads of the anti–power theft operation it launched in March. It has fanned out from Central Uganda, Jinja, 80 kilometres East of Kampala, and now to Mbale city, even farther East with an excursion in the Bukedi region launched today.
The operation is meant to check illegal connections, meter tampering, and to ensure bills due are settled. It comes on the heels of the increase in energy losses by one percentage point – from 16.4 per cent to 17.5 per cent – between 2019 and 2020.
To underscore the importance of the task, Umeme together with local leaders with support from the Uganda police combed through the township of Palisa, Kibuku and Budaka for suspected electricity thieves.
“Bukedi region covering Pallisa, Kibuku and Budaka are supplied through a power line that carries one million units of power and of which power losses average 400,000 units monthly, an average loss of 36 per cent,” Trevor Kigenyi the Regional Manager Eastern Uganda said.
This account for 15 per cent of the total loses in the Bukedi Elgon region losses. This amounts to Ushs 3.6 billion in lost revenue every year.
John Baptist Nuwamanya, the Umeme Metering services engineer says the region has a customer base of 3143 customers of which 153 are small and medium enterprises, three phase maize millers with 10 medium industrial maize millers.
In these areas, up to 928 people had by the close of last week been apprehended on suspicion of pinching electricity since the operation was launched.
Some had pirate wires connecting their premises to the overhead the national grid while others could not account for the underground cables linking their homes to the grid.
As police officers took the suspects’ statements, many confessed and offered to pay for the power they have been consuming as well as to formalise their connections.
A 17.5% loss of electricity in transit between a, say, 724 megawatt (MW) power generation plant and households translates into 126.7%.
The 126MW that is dissipated as heat and commercial loss is sufficient to drive up to four factories of Roofings Namanve’s scale.
Power theft stalls the official connection rates since those who should be looped in use the service illegally.
The vice deprives the utility of cash needed for operations and maintenance, which leads to the deterioration of the network.
The Head of Communications and Marketing, Peter Kaujju, said Umeme will not relent in the fight against electricity theft.
“The key function of this Komboa operation is to weed out illegal connections and to ensure people have access to our service in a safe manner clearing following the set electricity connection procedures,” Mr Kaujju said at the launch of operation in Pallisa.
The Electricity Act provides for fines and jail terms for those convicted of electricity theft.
Senior Superintendent of Police Ashraf Chemonges who represented the Inspector General of Police cautioned the public to desist from stealing power and vandalising electricity equipment.
The Pallisa Resident District Commissioner Ms Farida Mayanja Mpiima urged the community to be patriotic by preserving government efforts. She commended Umeme for her efforts and said she will join them in community barazas to sensitise the public against power theft