Power outage intensifies as Jabana 1 thermal power plant is upgraded

This week’s power cuts in some Kigali suburbs have been attributed to  rehabilitation and upgrade works on Jabana 1 thermal power plant. The blackout has affected several businesses across Kigali.
EWSA workers fixing up electric cables.  The New Times/ Timothy Kisambira.
EWSA workers fixing up electric cables. The New Times/ Timothy Kisambira.

This week’s power cuts in some Kigali suburbs have been attributed to  rehabilitation and upgrade works on Jabana 1 thermal power plant. The blackout has affected several businesses across Kigali.

One of the affected businesses is K-Club, a night club based in Gacuriro.  Betty Mulego, the proprietor, said she incurs extra costs on generators whenever there is a power outage.

“We have been affected like everyone. We had to incur extra cost on generators but I enquired with Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA) and they said we will have power by tomorrow,” said Mulego.

Some offices have also not been spared. Sandrine Gatesi, an  HIV/Aids activist in Kigali, said their work was affected.

“We have no business, since Monday, our office has been closed. If EWSA is to cut off power, they should desist from switching off for the whole day, otherwise the kind of losses incurred are immense,” said Gatesi.

Many businesses from small scale to big enterprises, factories and homes have all been affected by the outage.

However, EWSA has no compensation policy to cater for the losses incurred.  In an interview with The New Times, the EWSA electricity distribution manager, Larry Vincent Mpaka, said the blackout was due do maintenance works at Jabana plant.

The Rwanda Utility Regulatory Authority (RURA) also said the compensation mechanisms available do not cover losses incurred when there is a general switch off for maintenance.

“For any planned maintenance, there is an earlier communication that should be passed to ensure that people undertake mitigation measures, so any loss incurred after is not compensated for. EWSA can only compensate if there has been over voltage release of power that burns or destroys appliances but that compensation also comes after investigations,”  Alfred Dusenge Byigero, the RURA head of Energy, Water and Sanitation said.

The areas affected by the power blackout include; Kimironko, Kibagabaga, Remera Kanombe, Kabuga and Masaka.

Mpaka said works on Jabana 1 were in the final stage and the power outage that has so far lasted for two days would soon cease.

“We contracted a South African company, MPU South Africa, to rehabilitate and upgrade Jabana plant and we expected them to be done with works by the  end of today (yesterday evening),” he said.

He added that the plant’s low production capacity has been one of the major reasons behind the continuous load-shedding, especially in the evening hours.

“We are now replacing the machines and by the end of the rehabilitation, the plant should be able to increase its capacity by 7.8MWs. With this increment, we won’t experience blackouts,” Mpaka said.

Prior to the upgrade, Jabana had a maximum capacity of 3MWs. Mpaka added that besides the installation of the new machines and increasing the production capacity, they would ensure that the increased megawatts are on the national grid by December 20.

“We will not disconnect anyone when we are redirecting this power to the grid,” Mpaka said.

He appealed to the public to be patient, saying the two-day cut was mainly aimed at ensuring that people do not face the blackouts in the future.

The upgrade is part of the country’s grand plan of increasing electricity production. EWSA’s current customer base is about 380,000 clients, an equivalent of 17 per cent of households.

According to the energy sector strategic plan and roadmap 2013-2017, the government plans to increase the current installed capacity from 110.8MW to 563 MW by 2017 mainly from hydro, peat, methane, geothermal and solar.

The 563MW target will require an investment capital estimated at $1.8 billion. The government has since the beginning of the year signed several dollar  projects.

These include $23 million (Rwf15 billion) energy deal with a Dutch firm to develop an 8.5 Megawatts solar power plant, Rwf241 billion agreement with an Indian company, Punj Lloyd to develop 100 MW of peat energy and a $15 million (Rwf9.7billion) with a Swiss firm, Renewable Energy For Accelerated Development (REFAD) to develop a 5 MW hydro power plants in the Southern Province, among others.

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