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Uganda to launch the first community microhydro plant

The East African Energy Technology Development Network (EAETDN) - Uganda Chapter is carrying out a feasibility study to pave way for the construction of the first community based 35 - 40 kilowatt Dirigana Micro-Hydro Power Demonstration Project in Sironko
The power plant that will be off the national grid is to have a distribution network to supply Bugiboni village households in Bumasifwa Sub County in Budadari East, Sironko District with electricity for lighting, cooking, grain milling, battery charging, micro industries and recreational activities.

The project’s main goal is to contribute to the mitigation of climate anomalies and promote environment conservation by enhancing access to environmentally and socially appropriate energy technologies in order to improve livelihoods of the poor within the community. Its objective is to build capacity of the community members in order to be able to link environment management to micro-hydro power generation and sustainability of the project. It will pilot and document the best practices that could facilitate replication of the micro-hydro in the country. According to EAETDN with the successful implementation of this project in Uganda, it will be possible to use lessons learnt to implement similar projects in Tanzania. The Kenya chapter of EAETDN has benefited much from the experience of micro-hydro projects undertaken by the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG)/Practical Action in Kenya. The Uganda group will receive technical backstopping from the Kenyan example.

The power plant to be implemented by EAETDN – Uganda and Jimcol Micro Turbines Limited, a Kenyan based micro turbine manufacturing company will be constructed on River Dirigana that passes through Bugiboni Village in Bumasifwa Sub County. The Dirigana Community Association, the local NGO will implement activities on the ground while the Sironko Local Government and Bumasifwa Sub County will over see the implementation. On the national level the project will be implemented in consultation with the National Environment Management Authority for environment sustainability and Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development under the Rural Electrification Agency for quality control.

The feasibility study will include; a baseline survey, topographic survey, geological investigations, hydrological studies, and the Environmental Impact Assessment. “The feasibility study is on-going and is expected to be concluded by the end of February this year,” according to the chairperson EAETDN - Uganda, Dr. May Sengendo. “The results of the feasibility study will provide more information that will support the technical, social and economic design of the project,” Sengendo said. Sengendo who did not want to dwell over the costs of the entire project said it was in its infancy and that initial costs micro-hydro keep fluctuating and therefore difficult to have a total cost. The project that is expected to be completed next year is in the process of applying for a power generation permit from the Electricity Regulatory Authority.

This project is unique in that it is demand driven unlike most of the micro-hydro projects that are supply driven where EAETDN had to involve the community members by establishing their needs. Members in turn are to contribute to the project through free labour, bricks and sand. “It’s a project that has involved the community in the planning process, and will in the end contribute to poverty reduction through providing possible ways of using electricity for both domestic and small scale income earning activities, and at the same time making use of the skills of EAETDN members (energy economists, engineers, gender specialists among others) for the success of the project,” Sengendo said. The project will result in local artisans trained in the construction, operation and maintenance of the power generation and supply. Besides providing micro hydroelectric power to Bugiboni community for economic and domestic use it will support the local poverty alleviation efforts. Members of the community will be trained in micro enterprises. It’s to integrate environmental management with micro-hydro generation activities through promoting environmental awareness among communities as well as agro-forestry related activities. The Bagisu who live this fertile mountainous region are basically peasant farmers and cattle owners. Farming is done on the very fertile mountain slopes and valleys. The crops grown in this area include maize, coffee, cabbages, onions and tomatoes among others. Cross boarder trading in onions, cabbages, tomatoes and maize forms the back bone of the commercial activities of the village business-men who sell these crops to traders from Kampala and Moroto. The average household income in this area is comparatively high (the poorest household earns an average of $150 a year while others earn as high as $500 per harvesting season). The women form the backbone of the household income although quite a number of men engage in trading. “The community therefore has the potential to meet the electricity bills with relatively tolerable difficulty hence a viable investment in this rural community,” officials of the project said.

Additional information:
News date: 09/02/2007

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