UK, Ugandan companies collaborate to spur energy innovations

Dec 12, 2022

The companies are also expected to use this visit to explore energy access markets in Uganda, with a view to submitting project bids under the UK Aid-funded Energy Catalyst programme (ECP).

British High Commissioner to Uganda Airey (R) charting with Frank Neil Yigai CEO Anuel Energy Uganda (L) and Dr. Nicholas Mukisa, Deputy Coordinator National Renewable Energy /Photo by Colleb Mugume

Denis Nsubuga
Journalist @New Vision

Energy companies from the United Kingdom (UK) are in Uganda to collaborate with local companies in the energy sector to develop innovations and improve access to energy.

The 12 UK companies are on a trade mission seeking partnerships with key Uganda energy companies to realise affordable and clean energy.

The companies are also expected to use this visit to explore energy access markets in Uganda, with a view to submitting project bids under the UK Aid-funded Energy Catalyst programme (ECP).

British High Commissioner to Uganda, Kate Airey, said the first phase of the programme has a 20 million pounds (about shillings 90 billion) fund to support the partnerships to deliver innovations in access to energy and become profitable business enterprises. She said the bids will open in January and would close in April next year.

The focus areas for the visit are next-generation solar technologies and business models, smart green grids and mini and main grid-related technologies.

It will also explore energy storage, including batteries and mechanical storage, low carbon hydrogen, modern cooking and low energy-inclusive appliances.

The programme aims to support businesses to develop innovative, sustainable energy technologies and business models to accelerate the clean energy transition in developing and emerging economies.

Airey said the visit presents an opportunity for UK companies to work with Ugandan companies, researchers and innovators to tackle the challenges in clean, affordable and sustainable energy.

“To solve the challenges of climate change, we need to work together. We need a working relationship between the two countries to deal with the acute energy challenges both off-grid and on-grid. Uganda has a huge amount of talent, ideas from people ready to solve these challenges,” she said.

Last week, the team from Innovate UK met Uganda Investment Authority and Uganda Industrial Research Institute officials to understand the investment environment and opportunities in Uganda. 

They also visited the Mbarara University of Science and Technology, to explore its research and innovation towards access to energy.

Low-cost energy

The team visited Mandulis Energy in Nwoya district which owns and operates renewable energy projects in Africa and pioneered the private sector-led deployment of on-grid and off-grid renewable energy infrastructure.

Mandulis Energy chief executive officer, Peter Bentlur Nyeko said the energy sector needs extensive support to help rural communities get low-cost electricity.

“The main challenge is getting affordable energy in rural areas because the electricity that is shared by others in the cities is expensive to these communities. The challenge for us innovators is to be more innovative and come up with new ways of generating electricity that can be cheaper and off-grid than it is in the cities so that the farmers can afford to add value to their crops and access the markets,” he said.

Nyeko added that his company will also support other companies who fund their projects from Innovate UK to not only navigate the process, but also overcome the barriers they encounter in developing their projects.

Anna Robertson, a commercial lead at Kinetic Hydro Ltd, Edinburgh, Scotland, which provides mini hydro turbine generators, said their focus is on communities that are off the grid and businesses that are looking to promote green energy.

“There is a lot of opportunity in green energy. We will seek partnerships that can empower women who spend a lot of time collecting firewood, to produce energy in their homes and make them entrepreneurs,” she said.

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