Through its collaboration with the Ugandan system operator UETCL, Statnett is committed to promoting prosperity in the country proclaimed the Pearl of Africa by Winston Churchill.
Uganda is a priority for Norwegian foreign aid policy. Much of the effort is centred on the energy sector. With professional assistance from Norad, the Norwegian Embassy in Kampala administers the foreign aid programme, which amounts to about NOK 500 million a year. In the last decade, Norway has helped develop the energy sector in Uganda. The Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) has provided advice for Uganda's regulator. Statnett is a partner of the transmission system operator UETCL. The Norwegian companies Jacobsen Elektro and TrønderEnergi have built and own power stations responsible for almost 20 per cent of Uganda's power production capacity. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recently agreed to finance the construction of a new power line in the south-western part of the country, along the border with the Republic of Congo.
«We have cooperated with UETCL since 2006, and have just extended the twinning collaboration until 2016. The idea behind the so-called twinning collaboration is to help our «sister company» in Uganda build up their expertise. From a professional point of view, the challenges faced by the companies are very similar, even though there are significant differences as consumption in Norway is almost 50 times higher. There are also challenges posed by the different way of maintaining many of society's functions in Uganda, compared to what we are used to on home ground. Still, we find that transfer of expertise from Norway is highly relevant. We also get something back: There is broad commitment within Statnett to our collaboration with Uganda. It is useful for our colleagues to test out their points of view and work methods in a different context from the one we encounter in our daily work," says Executive Vice President Gunnar G. Løvås of Statnett.
UETCL's area of responsibility is similar to that of Statnett. The main strategic challenge is linked to grid development, in a society projected to experience substantial growth in the years ahead. It is both about connecting big new power stations and about developing the distribution grid. Currently, only 16 per cent of the population is connected to the power grid.
«The development is positive. This spring the Bujagali power plant on the Nile, situated only a short distance below Lake Victoria, entered operation with a capacity of 5 x 50 MW. We are working actively to develop a new power plant on the Nile (Karuma, 600 MW) which will more than double the country's power production. The plant is scheduled for completion in 2017. The country's existing 132 kV power grid will not be sufficient here. Consequently, there are plans to introduce new 420 kV interconnectors, just as in Norway,» says Løvås.
The three countries Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania want to strengthen their power collaboration. The countries are facing similar challenges and have ambitions for growth. Differences in the production mix between hydropower and thermal power generation allow for synergies through closer collaboration. For several years Statnett has been involved in a similar twinning collaboration with the national power company Tanesco in Tanzania and is now about to embark on a collaboration with the Kenyan power company Kenya Power.
On the world map, Uganda looks like a small country, barely visible in Africa. However, the map projection is deceptive. Uganda is the same size as the UK. With the neighbouring countries Kenya and Tanzania, the three countries are the same the size as the Nordic countries plus Germany and the UK.
"Statnett instigated the Nordic power collaboration. The experience we gained from this cooperation is in high demand now that the East African countries wish to strengthen their cooperation. To help establish the regional collaboration is a very important task," says Løvås.
Uganda is an agricultural tribal society with more than 30 different languages. Wood and charcoal are the main sources of energy. Life expectancy has increased significantly in the last decade and has now reached 54 years. Infant mortality is, however, still high. Introducing electricity to a larger share of the population is a prioritised political objective.
«We find it very rewarding to contribute to a positive development in East Africa. We say that the «future is electric», and this is very much the case in these countries. Just as Norway used to be a leading country in mission activities, we now continue that heritage in transMISSION activities,» Løvås concludes.