Please briefly describe your background: where are you from, and what was your education?
I am a Ugandan holding a degree in Electrical engineering for Makerere University, Kampala. I have gone through a series of training programs in solar technology, mini-grid technologies, renewable business management, and gender-related matters. I have experience in developing start-ups and general organizational management
What inspired you to become involved in decentralized energy supply in Uganda?
The impact part of it. Since our country has low electricity access rate which currently stands at 57%, and about 20% in rural areas, there was a need for me to join the renewable energy field. I lived in a small village in Eastern Uganda where there was no power during my childhood and I have traveled to different parts of the country which has given me a very good picture of what many rural parts of Uganda go through without access to electricity thus the need for decentralized energy solutions like solar technology.
What do you consider to be your most personally influential professional experiences when it comes to promoting decentralized solar energy in your country?
Initiation and setting up of the Sendea Academy which made the association of Sendea Uganda Ltd become a first runner at the Ashden energy access skills award. The Sendea Academy has so far trained over 300 professionals in various areas of renewable energy of which the majority are technical people. This has so far benefited the sector in terms of reduced service cases and better installations which directly improves business margins and value for money for the consumers.
Can you tell us about projects you are currently working on?
We are currently training technical professionals in solar technology in partnership with accredited Vocational institutions – Supported by the Stiftung Solarenergie and GIZ where over 120 technical people have been impacted on.
We are also working on the freelance or self-employed solar technicians, a program being funded by the SEZ foundation – Germany and we have so far trained over 100 technicians in this area.
And I’m working on the solar village model approach to increase energy access to marginalized communities. We are currently realising 3 solar villages where 1500 people have been impacted on with solar lighting solutions and phone charging.
In your opinion, what are currently the biggest obstacles to making decentralized solar energy more widespread in your country?
There are some barriers that need to be addressed from different angles and with different actors. These include, for example, low awareness of the benefits of renewable energy technologies and low support for local businesses that might be able to reach grassroots consumers at lower cost.
Still a major obstacle is the lack of financing options for solar technology, although there is a great demand. This is still a major obstacle, although Uganda’s population of 47 million people is very attractive for investment according to World Bank statistics for 2021. But inadequate market research sometimes misleads investors and project promoters, resulting in lost business.
Another challenge remains the low number of highly qualified finance professionals able to prepare budgets and forecasts for renewable energy companies. Since solar technology has many components, it really takes a well-trained person to plan and prepare the right budgets, taking into account credit risks, importation of goods, seasonal consumer buying trends, etc.
What support would you like to see in particular to strengthen the local solar economy?
We need more support from the Ugandan government and other development partners in raising awareness, as it is a capital-intensive sector. Likewise in policy development, because the renewable energy policy from 2007 is still being revised, even though a lot has happened since then.
Revision of taxation is also needed, as so far only the modules and batteries are exempt from taxation. However, solar technology has various applications that help improve access to energy for the poor and also for economic development, e.g. water pumps for irrigation.
Umbrella organisations need to be strengthened through funding and be able to support local solar companies and other renewable energy technology companies. The umbrella organisations include UNREEEA, USEA and Sendea.
What would you recommend to a young Ugandan who wants to work in the field of decentralized solar energy in his country? Is there a career perspective for him/her here? And if yes: how should he/she approach it?
Yes, there is a significant growth trend in the renewable energy sector, especially solar technology. For example, 7 years ago you would not see any job advert searching for an electrical engineer, most of them used to be for technicians but now we have so many needs for such engineers to cover solar water pumping, heating, Solar home systems, C&I and Solar mini-grids. There is also a measurable number of jobs for nontechnical positions such as business development, sales, finance, and management. Another area where the sector needs more people is training because there is a number of training organizations and yet more are coming up.