By Majak Kuany Alier
OPINION – With the independence of South Sudan from Khartoum in 2011, the country inherited a rudimentary electricity sector, which remained undeveloped for years despite the riches generated by oil.
This all changed in 2017, when the government commissioned the Ezra Construction and Development Group to construct a 100-megawatt power station to light up the country’s capital.
In November 2019, President Salva Kiir opened the first phase of the power plant, providing 33 megawatts to help the continent’s youngest nation embark on post-conflict recovery after years of civil strife.
Since then, the Juba Electricity Distribution Company (JEDCO), a joint venture between the government and Ezra Construction Group has been providing power to over thousands of customers living and working in the city.
JEDCO Managing Director, Wondimu Tenkir, is happy with the progress made during the first phase of the project. He said, “We have connected about 27,500 customers in Juba, which is a great achievement in our first year of operation. We have also connected Juba streetlights and the town is now shinning and clear.”
Tenkir explained that JEDCO still needs to reach more commercial and other important customers. He said the company continues to expand the distribution network, and has increased the number of transformers from 201 to over 300, which has further been expanded with 38 kilometers of low voltage lines, and over 8 km of 33KV lines.
The Managing Director said, “We are successful with our plan of a maximum load of 27 megawatts at the power station. This means we are achieving 95% of our target in the first phase.”
According to Tenkir, plans for phase two are progressing through the Ministry of Energy and Dams and the South Sudan Electricity Corporation (SSEC). Although an exact starting date has not been decided, as part of this project is funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB). There is a process underway and they are working very hard to get the next stage going.”
The second phase will see the current 33 megawatts of power generated at the plant it doubled. Tenkir said that consumption has exceeded expectations, with the predicted demand of 25 to 27 megawatts coming within one year, and not the 2 years forecast.
He added, “As you can see, power has changed people’s way of life and everybody now needs electricity.Electricity is a must for the country. It is crucial for its growth and development. JEDCO will continue to provide a reliable and affordable supply of electricity.” Tenkir said. “Sometimes it might be challenging with the expansion of the power grid because everything is new. And as we grow there will be problems, but now we are stable without interruptions for our customers.”
The JEDCO manager recognizes the importance of the community in which the company operates, and wants to help stimulate the small industrial sector which will help create jobs, and stimulate the economy.
Tenkir also expressed gratitude to Juba residents for tolerating disruptions during construction of the electricity distribution network infrastructure. The company has also launched an education awareness drive to teach customers how to use electricity safely, and to be aware of its dangers.