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Regional Energy Integration Promotes Cross-Border Electricity Trade in the Nile Equatorial Lakes Region

Innocent Kiiza is an Enviromental Investigative Journalist with passion for Climate Change, Water and Wildlife.

BY INNOCENT KIIZA

Kiiza is an accomplished environmental investigative journalist with a dedicated focus on matters pertaining to climate change, aquatic resources, and the preservation of wildlife.

Uganda and Rwanda have recently achieved a significant milestone in their quest for regional energy collaboration. Following the successful synchronization of their power grids, Uganda has officially begun selling electricity to Rwanda. This achievement is a testament to the collaborative efforts of the Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program Coordination Unit (NELSAP-CU) and signals a new era of cross-border power sharing within the Nile Equatorial Lakes (NEL) region.

The Head of the Rusumo project, Engineer Oduor Alloyce, emphasized the importance of the Uganda-Rwanda Power interconnection project in promoting increased cross-border energy sharing. NELSAP-CU, in partnership with the Eastern Africa Power Pool (EAPP), has successfully synchronized the electric grids of Uganda and Rwanda, allowing these neighboring countries to exchange power seamlessly.

“The substations at Mbarara (Uganda) and Shango (Rwanda) have been completed, along with the transmission lines connecting these substations. The Ugandan side of the line has been energized up to the Rwanda border, and synchronization of these lines has been achieved, through support from USAID,” Engineer Oduor explained.

Moreover, the electric grids of Kenya and Uganda, as well as Rwanda and Burundi, have already been synchronized. The completion of the Rwanda-Uganda interconnection represents a critical link that facilitates the parallel operation of the electric grids of five countries: Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda.

This accomplishment marks a transformative step toward cross-border power sharing, fostering economic growth, and strengthening the interconnected energy landscape of these nations. Dr. Jean d’Arc Mujawamariya, the Minister of Environment of Rwanda and a member of the Nile Council, commended the achievement made by NBI and NELSAP in Rwanda. She stated, “The Government of Rwanda expresses its sincere appreciation for the commendable achievements realized by NBI and NELSAP in various sectors such as Mbarara (Uganda) and Shango (Rwanda) and the regional project of the Rusumo Hydroelectric project. These significant initiatives are contributing to Rwanda’s progress and development.”

The Mbarara (Uganda) and Shango (Rwanda) interconnection has the potential to benefit millions of people, particularly the youth, by bolstering their socio-economic status. There is a shared acknowledgment of the importance of expediting the implementation of pipeline projects, with a specific mention of the Akanyaru water resource development project.

Eng Jacob Manyuon Deng, NELSAP-CU’s Power Program Officer, revealed that they are currently conducting feasibility studies for additional interconnections, including those between Uganda and South Sudan, as well as Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These initiatives aim to further strengthen regional collaboration and enhance access to electricity across borders.

Deng highlighted the comprehensive preparations undertaken in collaboration with EAPP and with support from USAID to ensure the coordinated and smooth synchronized operation of the interconnected grid system in the NEL region. Key areas such as protection schemes, interconnection switching operations, outage requests, fault detection and clearing, synchronization, telecommunications, dispatch/operational procedures, and coordination of maintenance schedules have been crucial for the success of this interconnected power grid system.

When addressing concerns about the line’s sustainability and maintenance, Deng mentioned that working groups consisting of planning, dispatching, protection, and telecommunications engineers from both Uganda and Rwanda have been established. These groups play a vital role in ensuring the seamless operation and maintenance of the interconnected power grids.

The commencement of power exports from Uganda to Rwanda not only strengthens economic ties between the two nations but also marks a significant step towards a more sustainable and interconnected energy future for the entire NEL region. The collaborative efforts of NELSAP-CU, EAPP, and the participating countries showcase the potential for regional power trade and the positive impact on energy access and environmental conservation.

In conclusion, the synchronization of the electric grids of Uganda and Rwanda sets a promising precedent for energy collaboration in the Nile Equatorial Lakes region. The success of this project underscores the commitment of these nations to harness the power of cooperation, leading to sustainable energy solutions and economic development.

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