The potential of off-grid solar energy in Uganda

The off-grid energy sector has been and is still expanding rapidly in Uganda. It plays an important role in improving access to clean and modern energy services. The growth of the off-grid sector has been supported by the Government’s commitment to improve electrification through agencies such as the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), as well as by development partners and agencies (such as DFID, European Union, World Bank, USAID/Power Africa, Embassy of Netherlands, United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) CleanStart, UNDP and Shell Foundation). Development partners have offered technical and financial support to both the government and the private sector to further advance access to clean energy and support the sector.

Many local and international companies in the off-grid solar sector in Uganda are using innovative technologies and business models to foster access to off-grid solar energy. Some of these solar technologies include Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGo) services that enable low income earners to afford solar systems through digital finance with lower instalments than traditional loans or paying the full cost of the system upfront in cash.

The growing significance and potential of off-grid energy in Uganda calls for a supportive and enabling market environment to stimulate investment in the sector. The Uganda Solar Energy Association (USEA) has been formed to provide advocacy and other support to solar companies in advancing the uptake of solar energy solutions in the country. As USEA engages with stakeholders, including the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD) and the broader Government of Uganda, it has become increasingly clear that data plays a significant role to inform policy-level engagements and validate the contribution the off-grid sector towards achieving universal energy access. However, the current market data available to the public is very limited, and only includes rough national market sales estimates with limited product range and company participation in data collection.

To fill this gap, USEA, together with UNCDF, the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), Dalberg Data Insights (DDI), and GOGLA, rolled out the first pilot of a Solar Market Data Collection (SMDC). This is the first comprehensive national off-grid solar market intelligence in Uganda. The overall objective of the SMDC is to estimate the number and impact of off-grid solar systems sold across the four regions of Uganda.

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