Acts of Vandalism Disrupts Karuma Power Transmission

  • by Rodney Mponye
  • April 11, 2023

The Daily Monitor

The Ministry of Energy is in a fix after electromechanical equipment (reactors) that controls electricity voltage at Kawanda, Olwiyo and Lira substations got disabled due to vandalism.

While the three substations on the Karuma-Kawanda electricity transmission line remain energised since late 2022, Daily Monitor has learnt that the absence of the reactors risks the safety of the equipment and personnel due to uncontrolled voltages.

On Sunday, a source at Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL), who asked not to be named, said there have already been problems with one of the interbar transformers at Olwiyo substation.

The interbar transformers are installed at the plant to step down the 132KV electricity terminated from Karuma Dam to be loaded on the 33KV distribution apparatus of Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Ltd (UEDCL).

“That line is off, the towers are down due to vandalism and now those reactors have been rendered redundant because the line is not energised. The reactors are not available to help us with the voltage control, so the voltages are so high here,” the source said in an interview.

“We have reactors installed at the Kawanda substation that control the fluctuating voltages but they are connected to that vandalised line, and now that equipment (the reactors) cannot work unless the vandalised line is put back into action,” the source added.

This publication also learnt that the absence of the reactors also exposes the Lira and Olwiyo substations to  high voltages in the absence of synchronisation equipment at Karuma Hydropower Dam, which is yet to be installed.

“Whereas we have at the station here the interbar transformers that step down the power voltages from 132KV to 33KV, the two distribution feeders (lines) terminating from the Olwiyo substation to Pakwach and Adjumani districts have been affected due to the problem,” the source said.

The source added that the risk has also been aggravated by the limited (low consumption) load on the two 33KV feeders to Pakwach and Adjumani, causing tripping on the lines.

Sometimes, the source explained, the high voltage damages the 33KV distribution system at Olwiyo since the regulators are absent, forcing them to switch off the line.

Mr Jonan Kiiza, the UEDCL spokesperson, said the intermittent transmission at the Olwiyo substation had tremendously affected their distribution operations in the West Nile sub-region.

“We have experienced breakdowns and damages to our systems due to the uncontrolled voltage termination at Olwiyo substation and subsequently caused sporadic blackouts in the Adjumani and Pakwach areas that we supply from Olwiyo,” Mr Kiiza said in an interview.

In November last year, UETCL was hit with a wave of vandalism that saw at least an electricity transmission tower vandalised every week.. The vandals in Kafu allegedly targeted pylon parts, conductors, including transmission infrastructure parts made of steel, and aluminium wires.

Five months later, the 10 transmission pylons reportedly ripped off by the vandals from the line have not yet been replaced, forcing the government to draw electricity power from the Opuyo-Lira transmission line to energise Karuma and Olwiyo stations.

During the commissioning of the Karuma Interconnection Project (KIP) on March 23, Energy Minister Ruth Nankabirwa decried the vandalised Karuma-Kawanda transmission line, which she described to be a huge setback to the government requiring more than Shs370 billion to fix.

“The Karuma-Kawanda line has been vandalised, so we are now looking for about Shs370 billion for the contractor to re-establish the pylons, it is a huge setback,” she said.