The government has revived the free electricity connections program that was suspended in December 2020 over financial constraints that were brought about by the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
First launched in 2018, the scheme jointly implemented by Uganda Electricity Distribution Company and the power distributor UMEME, the government promised to connect some 300,000 customers without paying connection fees.
Customers who had wired their houses were required to pay just UGX 20,000 inspection fee.
While addressing a news conference at the Uganda Media Centre (UMC) on Wednesday, the Energy Minister Mary Gorreti Kitutu revealed that government will effective March 8 resume the project after sorting out COVID financial constraints.
“The launch of the resumption of the ECP today, will pave way for subsidized electricity connection to customers within one pole services. The policy has also been revised to accommodate those who are able and willing to pay to do so, in cases where government has no resources to implement the policy,” she said.
Minister Kitutu said government has already released some of the money owed to UMEME by electricity distribution companies as part of the free connection policy to be paid in two quarters.
Utilizing government of Uganda funds for the financial year 2020/21 releases, government has allocated UGX14.2 billion to UEDCL and small service providers to partly pay for already made connections and commence new connections on March 8, 2021,Kitutu said.
According to Kitutu, the Rural Electrification Agency (ERA) has under the African Development Bank funding already procured over 87500 connection materials in addition to the 2,598 connection materials under the Islamic Development Bank funding as part of the strategies to ensure effective resumption of the program countrywide.
We want to have 60% of Ugandans connected to electricity by 2027 and that is our target. To achieve this, we want to increase the number of connections made annually from the average of 70,000 before the policy was made to 300,000.
When journalists sought clarity on why the electricity bills have kept high yet Uganda produces excess power, the Minister responded by saying that this is due to the limited number of connections especially manufacturers.
Uganda currently produces 1,254 Megawatts which is more than the estimated 800MW of peak power demand.
The Minister further noted that resumption of the free electricity policy is expected to bring relief to customers whose applications had remained pending whereas many others could not afford the connection fees.
Following the suspension of the program, UMEME hiked connection fees from UGX20,000 to UGX 720,883 for a no pole connection, UGX 2.3m for one pole bare conductor and UGX 2.7m for pole with insulated conductor connection.