Power Crisis Looms As Jinja Dam Undergoes Reconstruction


thumb sans-serif; color: #222222;”>The caution was sounded by South African based Eskom Chairman, Mr Zola Tsotsi, who is in the country with a delegation of top managers, to assess the performance of the Company.

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Eskom Uganda Ltd, a subsidiary of his Eskom Holdings was awarded a 20-year concession to operate the Nalubaale and Kiira Hydropower plants.

Owen Falls Dam which was commissioned by the British colonial government in April 1954 has outlived its designed lifespan now by 10 years, and experts warn that it may be completely defunct by 2023.

During a journalists’ guided tour around the 180 megawatts Nalubaale dam with Mr Zola on Monday, it emerged that yet another of its units (Unit 6) was down, bringing the number of operational units to 10 down from 15.

Since they took up operations at the dam in 2002, Eskom have been occupied with repairs and rehabs on the dam, doing numerous patches on the expanding faults in the dam wall which came as a result of concrete movement, causing its water control gate to malfunction.

They also upgraded each of the dam units from 15 to 18 megawatts, procured new transformers and introduced a computerized monitoring system that calculates the waters, monitors the plants condition and swiftly detects and alerts on any glitches.

Indeed, despite the plant’s old age and dire condition, Eskom have for years managed to maintain above 94% power availability as required in their concession agreement with government.

“But that doesn’t take away the fact that the plant is too old and there will be a limit to the extent to which we will keep refurbishing it,” Zola told our deposed in an interview.

The dam control center has been computerised to ease monitoring

“I appreciate hearing that your government has plans to build more and bigger dams elsewhere.”

He says the plant will be undoing expert analysis to see how it can be overhauled but warns that a lot of surplus power must be on standby when the dam closes for the exercise.

“At all times, in power systems there has always got to be options – enough flexibility in the reserve margin,” he said.

“Government of Uganda may want to have more than enough power that you can afford to shut down some of the power generation units.”

“It’s only then that you can close the station and do a diversion, and luckily there is another channel to the side of the dam.

Details remains elusive on when exactly the reconstruction process of the dam starts, as government – the plant owner – remains tight-lipped on the plans, though Mr Zola is positive there is still enough time to avoid a crisis.

He advised further, that generating more power through construction of numerous dams alone may not solve the power problem if not matched with sufficient transmission and distribution equipment.

“You know that power cannot be saved. Every unit output must be evacuated to the final consumer. Therefore as you increase generation, you are tasking the transmission system, which is why government needs invest heavily in the obtaining new transmission equipment, but also ensuring proper maintenance of the existing ones.


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