By Our Reporter
Kitagati: President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and his Tanzanian counterpart Samia Suluhu Hassan have commissioned the Kikagati-Murongo Hydropower Plant in Isingiro district.
The 14 Megawatts cross-border dam is located on the Kagera River, the largest tributary of Lake Victoria, which serves as the natural border between Tanzania and Uganda.
Speaking at the ceremony shortly after commissioning today, President Museveni welcomed Her Excellency Samia Suluhu Hassan to the Western part of Uganda to commission a project on River Kagera that will benefit the two sister countries.
“It’s good that we’re beginning to utilize the potential of the Kagera River,” President Museveni noted, adding that 11 miles downstream from the location is Nshungezi where there are 38 megawatts to benefit both Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania.
“It’s a big honour to have President Samia Suluhu Hassan come here for the first time in this area. You have been to other parts of Uganda, but you hadn’t come here. We are very lucky, and I welcome you here,” H.E Museveni said.
The plant which was developed by Kikagati Power Company Limited (KPCL) will sell its power to the National Grid and consumers will pay US Cents 8.5 per kilowatt hour for the electricity generated. The cost, according to President Museveni is too high if it’s to serve the intended purpose and implored the developers to make it cheaper for people to get out of poverty.
“This price of 8.5 cents per unit is not a Christian idea because we’re insisting that power especially for manufacturing should be about 5 cents,” H.E Museveni said, mentioning dams like Karuma and Isimba where the production cost is 4.8 cents per unit and Bujagaali which started at 13 cents and has now come to 8.3 cents per unit.
“We need cheap electricity especially for manufacturing. There’s no way we can have expensive electricity and then you want us to get out of poverty,” H.E Museveni further noted.
He informed the gathering that with the Chinese loans, Uganda is able to produce power at 4.7 or 4.8 cents per unit “and our own dams where we already paid the debts, we’re able to have power at 1.2 cents per unit.”
According to Berkeley Energy, the developers of the project, it was envisioned in the Bilateral Agreement that the power generated by the project will be equally shared between the two countries. Under the power sharing agreement, the two countries agreed that Tanzania would take 2.5MW in the first 3 years from the commissioning date (about 35% of power generated) to fulfil the lower energy demand on the Northwestern part of Tanzania. However, President Museveni disagreed with the power sharing idea.
“This argument about who takes more power, I’m not part of that argument. If Tanzania needs the power more, they take it provided they pay for it, what’s the problem? If they wanted 2 megawatts originally and now, they want 4, they should get the 4. I am authorizing it here now! If they want all the 14, they should take but they pay, what’s the problem? H.E Museveni wondered, adding that Uganda is already exporting power from Masaka to Bukoba.
On her part, the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, H.E Suluhu thanked President Museveni for the invitation to commission a power plant that will immensely strengthen the historic and fraternal relations between the two countries that continue to improve day by day.
“Frankly speaking, I applaud your vision to inaugurate this project and see to it that it is accomplished. I have had a chance to visit the project and it is really well done. Congratulations and thank you so much,” H.E Suluhu said, adding that the power plant will improve a lot of things including; trading and investment, transportation of people and goods, social services, clean and safe water and education.
“The power is going to improve security in our area because it is going to bridge the inequality and the communication gap between the urban and rural settings,” President Suluhu noted.
The ceremony was also addressed by the Ministers of Energy of both countries; Ruth Nankabirwa of Uganda and Mr. January Makamba of Tanzania. They hailed the two Presidents for their good leadership in ensuring that the project is completed successfully. They pledged to ensure that even other projects like the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), Masaka Mwanza transmission line, a gas pipeline project among others are completed successfully.
“We know that they’re important to you, our countries and our people,” Minister January Makamba said.
The project received support from several multi-laterals, including the Africa Renewable Energy Fund (AREF); a $205 million fund managed by Berkeley Energy and all the loans will be repaid over 16 years, starting from the date of commissioning.
Being a cross-border project, the initiative fits with the East African Community Vision 2050 and Article 101 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community under which the Partner States agreed, among others, to cooperate in the exploitation of renewable energy resources to supply affordable energy to their people.
The ceremony was attended by officials from the Ministries of the two countries, Security officials and the leadership of Isingiro district.