Nationwide Power Blackout Hits Uganda During Karuma Hydro Power Plant Test

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On Friday, Uganda experienced a nationwide power blackout, halting businesses across the country for much of the afternoon.

The Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Ltd (UETCL) announced the outage via its official X handle, formerly Twitter, attributing it to a load rejection test at the Karuma Hydro Power Plant.

“Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Ltd (UETCL) informs the general public that a national blackout has been registered this morning following a load rejection test at the Karuma Hydro Power Plant. System restoration is underway,” UETCL stated on the X-platform.

The load rejection test is a crucial procedure performed before the hydroelectric generating set is operational. The 600-megawatt Karuma Hydro Power Plant, situated along the River Nile in Kiryandongo District, is expected to boost Uganda’s installed electricity capacity to 2,000 megawatts once fully operational.

Enoch Kusasira, the Head of Communication & Corporate Affairs at Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited (UEGCL), explained that the blackout was due to a commissioning trial test at the Karuma Hydro Power Plant. As part of this test, all other dams were switched off to evaluate if all generating units at the plant could be integrated into the national grid.

“We are testing the plant on the grid, and these are part of the trial tests. The plant is almost complete, and we are trying to see if we can have all the generating units on the grid,” said Kusasira. “While doing that, sometimes you need the entire grid, so you first switch off all the other dams and try the plant on the grid, causing that kind of blackout.”

In May, UEGCL announced that all six units at the Hydro Power Dam had been synchronized with the national grid, moving closer to commissioning the country’s largest power plant. The construction of the power plant, which started in August 2013, was originally slated for completion by July 2019 but has been delayed to September this year.

The $1.7 billion project is jointly funded by the Ugandan Government (15 per cent) and a soft loan from the Export-Import (Exim) Bank of China (85 per cent). Once completed, the plant is expected to address power issues in Northern Uganda, particularly in the West Nile region, which has long depended on unstable off-grid electricity.

The Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL) is currently constructing a 294 km, 132kV double circuit transmission line from Kole district, passing through Gulu and Nebbi, to Arua (KGNA). Muhammad Lubogo, Manager of Public and Corporate Communications at UEGCL, reported that the overall transmission line construction is 96 per cent complete. The Gulu city substation is finished, while testing is ongoing in Nebbi and Arua before commissioning.

According to Lubogo, the entire transmission line is set to be commissioned by President Museveni on August 30. Earlier this year, in February, the government commissioned the 83KM 132kV Gulu – Agago transmission line, which transmits power from the 83 Megawatt Agago/Achwa Hydropower Plant.

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