Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) wants the cost of street lighting to reduce further than the 50 per cent drop they were given mid this year.
During the last electricity public hearing of the year that KCCA was unhappy with Shs370.4 per unit they are currently paying for street lights from Shs742.8 in the first six months of this year.
"Why can't we reduce the power tariffs for street lighting at least up to zero," Engineer Justus Akankwasa, from KCCA requested.
He explained that streetlights have a ripple effect on electricity consumption through industrialisation.
In response, Mr Blessing Nshaho, Umeme's chief corporate and regulatory officer, revealed that a pilot project was underway to determine the viability of a reduced tariff for the city watchman.
"Umeme is in the process of entering into a Memorandum of Understanding with KCCA to support them on both capital investments, operations and maintenance and one with ERA [Electricity Regulatory Authority] in order to figure out what the optimal street lighting cost would be in terms of electricity tariff to ensure it is sustainable," he said.
The project spearheaded by African Development Bank which is prepared to bear the capital investment costs, tethers the operation and maintenance costs to KCCA.
The French will finance an audit of the current street lighting network in Kampala to ascertain how many bulbs are in the city, which ones are working and which ones need replacement.
Regarding beneficiaries of the pilot test, Mr Nshaho said criteria has been drafted, subject to approval by KCCA which will assist Umeme to determine the final testing areas.
KCCA hopes to set up more than 22,000 street lights in the city.
Need for commitment
Pitching in as the determinant of the tariff, Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) explained that the sector was more than willing to dip the tariff for street lighting but now the onus is on KCCA to commit to utilising the power.
"It does not make sense for us to reduce the tariff when installations are not in place, when there is no street lighting," Mr Vianney Mutyaba, acting director economic regulation ERA said.
The concern from ERA, which also informs their need for the MOU is that lack of commitment from KCCA could lead to diversion of electricity connectors from street lighting to illegal connections to households or businesses.
However, since government stopped subsidies in the electricity sub-sector, achieving a zero tariff would mean something has to give.