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The change in ownership in Bujagali power dam will not lead to a drop in the cost of power, officials have said.

Last week, Norwegian firm SN Power announced it was buying Sithe Global’s stake in Bujagali hydropower as the latter opts out. But according to Brian Kubeck, the Sithe Global president, “this is just a change in ownership and may not impact on the cost of Bujagali power… Government has where it wants power costs to be, but investors also look at the costs incurred.”

Sithe Global, which has owned interest in Bujagali for eleven years, is incorporated in Mauritius. President Museveni’s biggest complaint has been that Bujagali is too expensive because it is operated by private investors.

At one point, he said government was going to use money from the oil industry to buy them out so as to cut the cost of power. In June last year, he said the country had made a mistake to accept to buy power generated by Bujagali at $10.1 cents per kilowatt hour, which, he added, was partly responsible for high prices of electricity in the country.

SN Power’s entry had been understood as a move by government to reduce the cost of electricity. SN Power says Uganda was a stepping stone to launch in the sub-Saharan region.

“We look to more hydro-power investment opportunities in the sub-Saharan Africa,” said Torger Lien, the SN Power CEO.

SN Power, owned by Statkraft, the Norwegian state-owned power firm, and Norfund, a Norwegian development financial institution, will operate alongside the Aga Khan fund for economic development.

Bujagali was opened in 2012, having cost around $900m. It added 250MW to the grid, halting rampant power blackouts that had plagued the country. Also, it led government to discontinue annual subsidies to thermal power generators.

Uganda expects Karuma and Isimba dams, under construction, to come on board by 2019, bringing a combined capacity of 788MW to the grid. Both dams are being constructed using loans from China. According to government, the power from these dams will be cheaper, costing between $4 cents and $5 cents per kilowatt hour.

Currently, the energy ministry is investigating reports of shoddy works, especially at Karuma, which is likely to delay the completion of the dam. Bujagali was tendered internationally to private companies to build, operate and transfer to government after 30 years.

Karuma and Isimba dams will be owned and managed by the government through Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited (UEGCL).

A row has erupted over the supervision of two of Uganda’s flagship hydro-power projects, pitting the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD) against the Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited (UEGCL) with officials now turning to President Museveni as arbiter.

Daily Monitor has learnt that top UEGCL officials met the President at State House Entebbe a fortnight ago and reported shoddy work at the dams and how Energy ministry officials, according to a reliable source who preferred not to be named given the sensitivity of the matter, “have been picking bribes to cover up the shoddy work.” A source who attended the meeting said the President vowed to look into the matter and has since dispatched an intelligence team to establish the facts.

But Energy Infratech PVT Ltd, the Indian company providing consultancy services (technically called Owner Engineer), has also accused UEGCL officials of soliciting bribes and when this was not forthcoming, bringing on board rival companies to do the same supervisory work “through the backdoor”.

The correspondences
The two projects are now being supervised by three companies, with the two Austrian and Swiss entities reporting to UEGCL and the Indian firm to the ministry. The total supervision costs of the three companies will amount to $10.86m (about Shs37 billion) by the time the project is completed in 2018.

In a March 24 letter seen by this newspaper, Mr R.V Shahi, the chairperson Energy Infratech, requests an appointment with the President in the second week of April. “We have been made aware that at many forums, few stakeholders have raised few concerns recently with respect to quality and effective supervision in both projects. I request to meet you and brief you in detail about the ongoing Karuma and Isimba hydro-power projects,” the letter reads in part.

The letter comes against the backdrop of several correspondences between Energy officials and UEGCL questioning the motive of the latter’s procurement of SMEC and AF-Consults, companies that reportedly lost in the open bidding to Energy Infratech in 2013; this time as consultants charged with auditing the current Owner Engineer.

In a February 10 letter to Mr Harrison Mutikanga the chief executive officer UEGCL, Mr Paul Mubiru, the accounting officer in the Energy ministry, writes: “I wish to take this opportunity to advise you that in my capacity as accounting officer, I am neither answerable to you nor do I get instructions from you. I am, therefore, responding to your letter for the sole reason that these are public documents which you gave wide circulation.”

Mr Mutikanga had raised a number of quality issues and contractor failings, stating in his letter: “The technical advisors (PMC) and UEGCL site team have made certain small improvements because Sinohydro site staff are willing to listen and improve. On the other hand (Energy Infratech), appears to be the main hurdle in achieving the required quality as their management team seems inexperienced, disinterested and incapable to act.”

But in his response, Mr Mubiru argues that Energy Infratech PVT, the firm which carried out the feasibility studies and design for Karuma HPP, “was selected through a competitive procurement process under the PPDA Act and the Evaluation Team comprised two officers from UEGCL,”

The disagreements
“Don’t you think it would be misleading for you to make every one believe that the UEGCL (Project Management Consultants) know the Karuma HPP better than Energy Infratech who designed it and formulated the specifications? If there is non-compliance, is it the consultant who is not compliant or the contractor? Don’t you think that you may be misunderstood by the public out there that your real issue with (Energy Infratech) may not be professional but some other issue best known to yourself? If they asked how many power plants you have designed and supervised in your engineering career, don’t you think that the answer you would give would be embarrassing?” he adds.

Both Mr Mubiru and Mr Mutikanga are engineers by profession.
When this newspaper contacted Mr Mutikanga for a comment last Friday, he said: “We didn’t break any procurement law and I can’t comment further because we broke no law.” Asked to explain the economic efficacy of hiring the two additional consultants, he said: “We got all the necessary approvals from government for whatever we did in the interest of the project.”

Mr Henry Bidasala, the Karuma HPP project manager in the ministry of Energy, told Daily Monitor last Friday, “UEGCL is the implementing agency and since they don’t have the capacity to play that role, they engaged a consultant who would help them in their project management as they acquire the skills they need. Of course, there are two sides to that; one can sympathise with their argument but another can question why they got other supervisors. They all need to work for one objective.”

But how does UEGCL come into the picture in a project whose contract administration power lies with the Energy ministry which penned the contract with Chinese firm (Sinohydro), the construction contractor, and Energy Infratech, the Owner Engineer (supervisor)?
This, Mr Mutikanga and the UEGCL board chairman, Dr Stephen Robert Isabalija, told this newspaper on Saturday, is at the heart of the matter with Energy officials.

In an On Lending Agreement signed on May 6, 2015, between government (represented by ministry of Finance) and UEGCL following a $482,578,200 loan from the Export Import Bank of China, government was required to enter into On Lending Agreements with UEGCL and UETCL (as borrowers) to implement the 183 MW Isimba HPP and the 600MW Karuma HPP.

Under the agreement, UEGCL was to use proceeds of the subsidiary loan to make procurements in accordance with the procurement rules and, “execute the project with due diligence and efficiency in accordance with sound administrative, financial and technical practices under the supervision of qualified personnel and promptly inform government of any condition which interferes with the progress of the project and performance by UEGCL of any of their obligations.”

A tripartite memorandum of understanding was signed on December 3, 2013, between government (represented by the Energy ministry) and the Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL) and UEGCL in relation to the power sector projects funded by Exim Bank of China after the Energy ministry concluded engineering procurement and construction contracts for the two dams.

The two entities were appointed as “lead agencies in overseeing the performance of the EPC contractors, project supervision consultants and project managers.”

It is on the basis of this agreement, UEGCL argues, that it derives basis for its persistent red flags raised to the ministry against consulting supervisor Infratech PVT.

UEGCL says poor quality work will affect the operation and life of the dams and that since it is the firm that will manage the two dams, it will be rigorous in ensuring that all specifications are adhered to the letter.

Officials in the Energy ministry now fear this ping pong will slow down the two projects slated to be launched early 2018.

In tomorrow’s edition, read about the shoddy work and the monies at stake.

ABOUT THE PROJECTS

Projected to produce 600MW, Karuma dam was awarded to Chinese firm Sinohydro in June 2013, starting construction in December the same year. It is expected to be commissioned in December 2018. China committed to finance 85 per cent of the dam’s $1.6b (Shs5.6 trillion). Uganda borrowed Shs1.435b (Shs4.8 trillion) from China’s Exim Bank and obtained the balance from the country’s Energy Fund. This newspaper reported yesterday that only 30 per cent of the work had been accomplished two years into the project and the balance would be completed by December 2018. Sinohydro has completed excavation of the dam and intake channels.Isimba Hydroelectric Power Station is a 183 megawatts hydroelectric power project worth US $570million (Shs1.4trillion) under construction by China International Water & Electric Corporation.
The project is financed by a loan from China’s Export-Import Bank after Parliament gave government a nod to borrow $482.5 million (about Shs1.4 trillion) from China Exim Bank at two per cent annual interest repayable over 20 years. Uganda will contribute the remaining $107 million.

French oil major Total S.A has said it will finance the development of the $4b (Shs13 trillion) crude oil export pipeline from Uganda’s Albertine Graben to Tanzania’s Tanga port at the Indian Ocean.

Mr Javier Rielo, the Total East Africa vice president, on Monday, assured Tanzanian President John Magufuli that “the company will begin construction of the pipeline project to transport oil from Uganda to Tanga as soon as possible, for funds to implement the project exist.”

According to a statement by the Tanzanian presidency, the two held talks on Monday at the State House in Dar es Salaam.
Mr Rielo, said, the statement indicated that the company “intended to spend nearly $4b on the project.

The meeting was also attended by the Tanzanian Energy minister Sospeter Muhongo who, according to the statement, expressed readiness to kick start the project immediately.

The news of the financing the 1,410-kilometre (876-mile) pipeline comes two weeks after the President Museveni and President Magufuli, meeting on the sidelines of the 17th Ordinary East African Community (EAC) summit in Arusha, “agreed” to develop the infrastructure via the southern route.

Uganda and Tanzania had last year in October signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the development of the project after, leaving the earlier proposed route via Kenya hanging in balance.

Following the Uganda-Tanzania deal early this month, Daily Monitor understands, Kenya has since put the spanner in works in a bid to salvage the deal—since the country is also currently in exploration stage for cumulative commercial oil quantities in the Northern Lockichar basin—and the pipeline project [from the Albertine via Lokichar to Lamu port] is an advantage to export its crude to the international market.

Kenyan deal
In 2013, Kenya and Uganda hired the Japanese engineering and consulting firm, Toyota Tsusho, to conduct a feasibility study on the proposed routes for the pipeline and recommended the Lamu route.

The route to Kenya is approximately 1,120km with a tagged cost of $4.5b (Shs14.9 trillion).
The International Oil Companies (IOCs) UK’s Tullow Oil PLC, Total E&P and China’s Cnooc, currently licenced to operate in Uganda, will finance the project.

An official in the Energy ministry told Daily Monitor that the Kenyan government had expressed “consternation” at the Tanzanian deal, but expressed immediate willingness “to revive” discussions with Uganda.

“They also want the deal badly,” the official said. Government technocrats were not ready to comment on either development.
Kenya and Uganda inked an MoU last October for the Lamu route but Kenya vociferously contested some of the preconditions such as guaranteeing upfront financing for project and the attendant infrastructure, guaranteeing transit fees/tariff not higher than any of the alternative routes, and most crucially guaranteeing security—since the project stop point [Lamu] at the Indian Ocean coast borders the restive Somalia to the North.

Daily Monitor also understands that Uganda and Tanzania are still furthering discussions on the southern route.

However, with both Kenya and Tanzania jostling for the deal and notwithstanding the MoUs, the official position of Uganda remains in suspense.

The pipeline is among the proposed key upstream infrastructure required before Uganda leaps forward to the next development/commercial production phases.

Other infrastructure included a $4b oil refinery, whose tender was last year awarded to Russia’s RT.

The refinery will be financed/owned in Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement with government in a 60:40 equity ratio.
However other East African countries are set to buy stakes in the project to facilitate its financing.

Capacity
Currently Uganda’s oil volumes stand at 6.5 billion barrels but there are indications could soon hit the 8 billion barrels mark.

Geothermal energy is clean, green, its carbon footprint on the environment is minimal.Since geothermal energy production began in Kenya in the 1980s, the technology has evolved to help make it a cleaner process.

The region's underground is a geothermal hotspot, harbouring hot water sources and steam at 300 degrees Celsius (572 degrees Fahrenheit) that is piped up to the surface from depths of up to 2,000 metres (6,500 feet). For many years, Kenya has relied on its hydroelectric network, which last year produced 820 MW. But recurring droughts have rendered this source of energy much less reliable than before.

By Betty Obbo & Sostine Namanya

The National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) joined the rest of the world to celebrate the national Women’s Day in style. NAPE’s activities to mark this widely celebrated day included holding a media interaction meeting, facilitating a local women’s drama group from Kaiso Tonya, and launching a Women-lead Participatory Action Oriented Research on the negative impacts of the extractive industry on rural women.

NAPE commissioned a Women-lead Action Research in 2015 with an aim of deepening the understanding of the link between mining and women’s rights, environmental degradation, climate change, food security and women’s health among others. The Mining industry in Uganda is rapidly growing. In Uganda mining is done on both large scale and small-scale (artisanal), and the minerals mined at small-scale include gold mining areas of Mubende in Western Uganda and Karamoja region, salt mining on Katwe salt Lake among others. This sector employs a vast majority of semi-illiterate and illiterate workforce many of whom are women. The Mining industry in Uganda is rapidly growing especially with the discovery of vast oil and gas deposits in the Albertine Graben.

Presence of crude oil and gas was first documented in Uganda by Wayland in 1925. The first commercial oil well was discovered in 2006 by Hardman and Tullow Oil Companies and since then, a number of oil wells have been drilled in the Albertine Graben by UK based Tullow, French Com­pany Total and Chinese National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC). Each of these oil companies signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ugandan government to develop the hydrocarbon resource in the region.

As Uganda started a number of oil development activities, significant negative impacts staterted showing up among communities, some are ranked resinous. And in all this, women are the most affected. The key findings of the Women-lead Action-Oriented research on impacts of oil development on Women included accelerating land grabbing, food insecurity through community displacements, animal human conflicts, increased population that has in turn increased pressure and carrying capacity of key ecosystems, increased prostitution, increased degra­dation of life supporting ecosystems, accelerated rights abuse, abuse of community access rights to ecosys­tem resources , introduction of inappropriate food technology to meet the increasing food needs, reduced opportunities for barter trade, water pollution among many others.

The research proposed the following recommendations to Government, Oil Companies, The Bunyoro Kingdom and the rural women.

To Government:

  • Government should fully resettle and compen­sate displaced communities using current com­pensation rates.
  • Respect communities’ indigenous food varieties and should support communities to protect their food and food rights.
  • Promote and implement prior informed consent so that communities are agreeable to the value of their properties including the timings.
  • Bring oil affected women on board in decision-making fora so that they contribute to develop­ment processes, understand their implication and challenges and jointly lay strategies of addressing the challenges.
  • Gender balance in compensation ensuring that both men and women equally benefit from com­pensation and this should be documented in pol­icy and implemented as well.
  • Conduct comprehensive EIAs on development projects and organize timely Public hearings so that communities give their positions on such projects
  • Compel Private Sector companies to commit their corporate social responsibility on those things that benefit the communities they operate in.
  • Compel private sector Developers to address the ecological and social foot prints of their invest­ment operations in Uganda.
  • Name and publish what companies pay and what you receive from companies.
  • Deny operational license to those companies that do not adhere to provisions of the environmental laws of Uganda
  • Compel the National Environmental manage­ment Authority (NEMA) not to approve stage managed EIAs

To the Oil Companies

  • Support improving girls and women and youth`s welfare programmes in Corporate Social Respon­sibility in consultation with the affected commu­nities especially women leaders.
  • Carry out EIAs and organize public hearings
  • Respect human and environmental rights.
  • Recommendations to Bunyoro Kingdom
  • Monitor non compliance of mining activities with environmental and human rights standards and requirements in the kingdom.

To Bunyoro Kingdom

  • Monitor non compliance of mining activities with environmental and human rights standards and requirements in the kingdom.
  • Advocate for stronger transparency, corporate accountability on land, food and women’s rights.
  • Advocate for stronger transparency, corporate accountability on land, food and women’s rights.

To CSOs

  • Sensitize communities on rights of women – women empowerment so that there is an appreci­ation of women`s role and be clearly understood as very important partners in development.
  • Support Media activities to expose oil impacts on vulnerable groups (women) so that they are am­plified and known to a wide range of stakehold­ers.
  • Promote more initiatives on enhancing women`s rights, for example community trainings and ex­posures, livelihood alternatives, talk shows on women`s role in development, among others.
  • Reach out to communities for awareness on land rights, and food sovereignty so that they become aware and protect these rights. This can be in form of trainings, food festivals, fares among others
  • Promote indigenous food varieties; CSOs should support campaigns on promoting indigenous va­rieties and community food production systems and should support farmer communities to in­fluence/challenge unfavorable policies on food. CSOs should support community to establish living seed banks and indigenous seed exchange exercises.
  • De-campaign promotion of GMOs in Bunyoro sub region
  • Amplify voices of marginalized communities.
  • Name and shame violators of environmental and community rights.

To Communities /women

  • Women should speak out and report to relevant authorities any form of violation of their rightsShould reject Genetically Modified Organisms and champion campaigns on promoting and pro­tecting their indigenous varieties of seed, plants and animals
  • Champion for women`s rights over food and land in a more practical manner.
  • Use the community Green