A survey by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics shows that the national electricity access rate has increased to 57 percent, of which 19 percent and 38 percent are on-grid and off-grid, connections respectively.
But Uganda needs to tap into renewable energy as a backup to hydro power. Ms Loy Florence Kyozaire the chief executive officer of Sendea, speaks to Prosper magazine's Tom Brian Angurini about the fast evolving renewable energy space.
1.Where does your mandate start and end at SENDEA?
Sendea is an umbrella organisation representing the local Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the solar industry and fully registered according to the laws of Uganda with 7 membership and 42 percent women owned enterprises.
A report from UNEP/DTU in partnership with Finding XY in 2022, unlocking support for local clean energy companies with insights from the Solar PV industry, showed that local entrepreneurs face a number of challenges from lack of suitable financing models for businesses, managerial and technical skills to limited knowledge on how to grow competitive and sustainable businesses.
These are key factors for investors and financing institutions, yet entrepreneurs are key drivers of Uganda's economic growth in terms of energy access and creation of green jobs.
Sendea, therefore, is a local solar cooperative supporting local entrepreneurs in the solar industry, offering business advisory services and consultancy services to government, donors and investors.
2. You are driving the Solar Village model. What does it intend to achieve?
By the time of Uganda's independence in 1962, a 60MW power dam had been constructed to cater for the energy needs of the 6.5m Ugandans.
The current population is estimated at 47m and the total installed capacity is about 1,346MW according to the Electricity Regulatory Authority data in 2021. Much as the electricity grid has reached several parts of the country, electricity access is still a challenge with only 57 percent of the population having access to electricity of which 19 percent is on grid and 38 percent is off grid technologies respectively. This implies that off grid innovations will accelerate the electricity access to support Uganda's Vsion 2030 for universal access to power.
Sendea started the solar village model to address the above issues and other sustainable development goals such as 3 and 7 for good health and wellbeing and energy access respectively.
This model has several benefits. From easy assessment of customers' needs, quick response to service cases, reduced business management costs, increasing access to hard-to-reach areas, reduced carbon emissions and supporting our member companies to access new markets.
Over 8 solar villages have been supplied with 800 solar home systems for lighting and phone charging creating an impact of over 4,000 people in different parts of the country through our network of member companies.
3. How will you ensure wider inclusion of the population in using renewable energy solutions?
Awareness campaigns about renewable energy can be carried out in partnership the government under the renewable energy department, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, umbrella organisations such as UNREEEA [Uganda National Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Alliance], USEA and other development partners in this sector. Support for local companies is still a pressing need that needs the government's attention and other development partners.
We need a mixture of technologies to reach a wider population like solar mini-grids in remote areas to supply quality power for productive use, solar home systems for residential purposes, as well as institutional and industrial demands, solar minikits and solar applications for agriculture such as irrigation kits and solar dryers.
4. What are the main renewable energy technologies that Uganda has installed?
Solar for lighting, irrigation, milk cooling, mini grinding mills among others are some of the renewable energy technologies installed across the country.
5.Has the recent global increase in energy prices affected deployment of renewables in Uganda and if so how?
The recent global increase in energy prices have strengthened deployment of renewable energy solutions.
There are more commercial and industrial projects using renewable energy solutions against electricity, diesel and petrol. Being one-off installation capital costs, the mid and long term benefits are far-reaching.
6. There are concerns about technical competencies from quality to the installation of solar energy accessories and skills gaps in the industry. How are you handling this?
We subscribe to a customer protection code which should cover issues of quality and members supply of Uganda National Bureau of Standards, lighting global certified products and other international certification bodies. When it comes to technical issues regarding the quality of installations, with support from the solar foundation Stiftung Solarenergie, Sendea started the Sendea Academy in 2018 which is addressing such concerns through capacity-building activities for solar technicians and engineers at different competence levels.
Since 2018, over 400 beneficiaries have been trained in various fields of both technical and non-technical short courses in partnership with accredited Vocational Training Institutions and individual consultants of which 30 percent are women because they are highly encouraged to participate. Out of the 400 beneficiaries, 70 percent are technical.
7. Is the National Energy Policy in the category of renewable energy aligned with what you do?
The renewable energy policy 2007 to 2017 section 2.3 mentions several barriers to the intake of renewable energy technologies especially solar, like limited technical and institutional capacity, lack of awareness about the importance of renewable energy technologies and limited involvement of women in technology use and innovation.
In terms of skills development for technicians, we are working with accredited institutions such as Nakawa Vocational Institute and DonBosco Vocational Training Centres which cater for public private partnerships.
The solar village model starts with a feasibility study which is done by our member companies who involve the poor and their community leaders in the energy needs assessment.