Electricity Act 1999 should be amended to curb power theft

Electricity Act 1999 should be amended to curb power theft

On Friday April 9, Daily Monitor reported that power distributor Umeme lost Shs98b to power theft in Jinja Sub-region between January and March and that such loss is greatly attributed to the outdated Electricity Act 1999.

As much as the Judiciary created a Utilities, Standards and Wildlife Court to prosecute culprits involved in stealing of utilities such as power, the Electricity Act prescribes very weak punishment for culprits.

Power theft, illegal connection and vandalism in Uganda are rampant crimes where wires are left exposed which at times lead to electrocutions.

Section 88(1) of the Electricity Act 1999 imposes a penalty of 30 currency points (Shs600,000) or two years imprisonment or both to anyone who steals power.

The Act does not provide stringent punishments to culprits of power theft or vandalism to equipment from the network, despite the huge losses the habits cause to the company and the country at large.

The Electricity Amendment Bill 2020 to repeal the Electricity Act of 1999 was approved by Cabinet on July 20, 2020, but it is moving at snail’s pace yet the electricity sector is facing a lot of challenges that can only be addressed by amending the Electricity Act.

On top of power theft, the electricity sector is facing other challenges such as high power tariffs: even after commissioning the 183MW hydro power dam, the power tariffs remained the same as in the previous years.

The prices include Shs751.9 per unit for domestic consumers, Shs645.6 for commercial consumers and Shs361 for large industries.

If the service fee and Value Added Tax (VAT) costs are added to the above prices, domestic consumers pay nearly Shs1,000 per unit of power. The cost paid by the commercial and large consumers also increases.

The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD) should work with Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) and present the Electricity Bill 2020 to Parliament and the Bill must address the following;

a) Provide for tougher and deterring punishment for power theft and vandalism. b) Distribution companies should be penalised for power outages and compensate the affected users for the loss suffered due to power blackout. c) Make provisions on alternative power supply, specifically off-grid energy sector.d) Provide for compulsory land acquisition in line with Article 26 of the 1995 Constitution to solve issues of deemed power. e) Put a limit on borrowing money to invest in grid power that leads to high return on investment that make power very expensive.f) Complaints filled at […]

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