The Electricity Regulatory Authority(ERA) has described theft and vandalism of electrical equipment as a major threat in the fulfillment of future development plans in the electricity supply industry.
Officials explained that such act can frustrate efforts of further advancement in the industry since more funds are spent into the reconstruction of the network.
In a bid to curb the vice, in 2019 a one Peter Muhangi was arrested in Mpigi district after being caught in possession of stapling bolts worth Shs 16 million vandalised from a transmission tower on the network operated by the Uganda Electricity Transport Company Limited(UETCL) in Mpigi district.
According to the officials, Muhangi was convicted and sentenced to three years imprisonment by the Buganda Road sased Standards Utility and Wildlife Court commonly referred to as the “Electricity Court”
In April 2019, the authority published on its digital platforms, the news on the conviction of Muhangi for electricity related offenses listed under the electricity act 1999 .
“Surprisingly, some social media subscribers who reacted to the news published on the digital platforms thought Muhangi’s crime was petty and therefore didn’t require such a long jail sentence,”officials explained.
Officials however noted that there is no petty theft in the electricity supply industry thus a three year jail sentence was reasonable.
They said Muhangi’s crime is one the electricity supply industry has battled since its existence: vandalism of electricity equipment.
According to the authority, the reports by Uganda Electricity Transport Company Limited (UETCL) indicate that reconstruction of transmission tower can cost between Shs 30 to Shs 40 million.
Officials explained when a tower is vandalised, the two more nearby towers are likely to collapse which means that UETCL will incur an estimated material cost of Shs 120 million to reconstruct three towers.
“Yet with good maintenance, pylon supported transmission networks serve a life span of about 30 years during which period investment can be geared towards expansion of the grid to effectively dispatched the electricity generated,” an official noted.
“It is therefore a huge set back for the electricity supply industry when just quarter way the life span on the network more funds have to be injected into the existing network instead of advancing the grid,”the authority stated.
Since the country has sufficient installed generation capacity, officials said focus has shifted to investment in the transmission network to effectively evaluate the existing power, plants, growth demand to utilize the abundant supply and improve the quality and reliability of supply.
They added when the power generated is effectively despatched and fully utilized, the tariffs are projected to reduce hence calling for increased investment into the transmission and distribution network to ensure the realization of these aspirations.
“Unfortunately, theft of electrical equipment and vandalism stand as major threats to full realization of this plan because huge investments are made to ensure network reliability,” an official said.
Officials said vandalism creates significant delays in realization of critical industry goals noting that 12 years ago ,the country was plunged into a period of darkness due to inadequate supply of electricity.
Officials said in February 2019, the northern part of the country was deeply affected by power outages some of which were caused by bush fires that destroyed the electricity distribution infrastructure.
“The power distributor faced significant challenges during reconstruction of the network because the restored parts of the network would be vandalised. This prolonged the outages and consumers took to the street to demonstrate and express their dissatisfaction with the quality of the electricity supply,” an official said.
The authority explained that there is hope in the electricity court saying that Muhangi is one among many who have been successfully prosecuted by authority at the Standards Utility and Wildlife Court.
Since the establishment of the court, over 11 cases have been handled successfully and conviction of the culprits secured.