Environmental Talk: Moving Ugandas Factories Away from Jinja Comes at a Cost
Power lines between Kampala and Jinja.

Environmental Talk: Moving Ugandas Factories Away from Jinja Comes at a Cost


Should we encourage factories to be located near power sources?

By Ivan Kibuka-Kiguli
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First published: April 15, 2007


Up until the early 90s, most of Uganda's heaviest industries were located in Jinja and the surrounding areas. Then a new phenomenon started; More and more heavy factories started to operate in and around Kampala. We all know factories bring some employment opportunities with them, but have we missed a trick or two?


According to the laws and theories of physics governing electricity transmission, power transmitted over a conductor (usually copper/aluminium/steel wires) is directly proportional to the square of the voltage and is inversely proportional to the resistance to flow offered by the conductor. In lay man terms, the higher the voltage, the more power can be transmitted and the higher the resistance in the wires, the less power that can be transmitted through them.

This explains why the voltage is stepped up by use of transformers at the source (in this case Kiira & Nalubaale dams) before transmission and then stepped down by transformers near the point of use (in this case your factory, house, etc). It also explains why wires are made out of metals that offer the least resistance (but other physical characteristics of the metals like the ability to withstand tension, expansion on heating, etc, also affect the material used).

We should also remember that the longer a wire is, the more resistance it offers. For electricity to overcome this resistance, some of it is lost in the struggle. The longer the wire therefore, the more power you lose transmitting electricity through it. Most factories require a lot of power to run them. Consequently, the further away they are from a power source, the more electricity we lose in transmission when powering them.

The British concentrated Uganda's factories in Jinja for this reason; To avoid unnecessary power losses. The fact however, is that Uganda's factories have by and large migrated to the outskirts of Kampala and further. They have brought in their wake power losses on the transmission lines between Jinja and Kampala. With the current power shortage in the country, we should be saving plenty of such power lost in transmission and using it for other things. There would definitely be less load shedding.


Powering Uganda's vibrant economy leads to power losses within the national grid
Powering Uganda's vibrant economy leads to power losses within the national grid.

That some electricity is now produced in Kampala by use of Aggreko's generators is not relevant and sustainable because it was intended to be, and is indeed a short to medium term relief to our energy woes. When the proposed dams along the river Nile are completed, these generators will cease to supply electricity to Kampala on a regular basis. The power losses between the dams and Kampala will then continue if not increase.

While we are working our way out of this energy crisis, it would be a good idea for the planning unit of the Government of Uganda to encourage factories to be built nearer the power sources than they are now. Any Ugandan or foreign investor should also note this aspect when choosing a location for their heavy-duty factory. Factories in Kampala do aggravate load shedding. Power losses are not totally avoidable but are quite manageable with careful planning.

By Ivan Kibuka-Kiguli
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First published: April 15, 2007
The author is a pollution control equipment engineer/consultant and a proud active member of UGPulse.