SOLAR ENERGY | SDG | INVESTMENTS
Millions of small holder farmers and entrepreneurs in remote villages across Uganda are set to access reliable and cheap electricity for the first time under a new off-grid solar scheme.
This was after the European Investment Bank (EIB) agreed to provide a $12.5m (sh47.5b) loan to support the deployment of 240,000 high-quality solar home systems in Uganda.
The scheme was agreed between EIB and ENGIE Africa through its Solar Home System subsidiary company, Fenix International. EIB is one of the world's largest financiers of renewable energy while ENGIE Africa initiative is a long-term partner for Africa's growing energy needs.
"Scaling up off-grid solar power model for transforming rural energy access across Africa; EIB financing to overcome barriers to 80% of Ugandans without access to electricity; Local currency financing to accelerate PAYGO solution for affordable green energy," a statement from ENGIE Africa said.
Ambroise Fayolle, the EIB Vice President said; "Access to affordable and clean energy is important to fight poverty, create jobs and empower women and girls. The EIB is pleased to agree new support for scaling up off-grid solar deployment in East Africa under this new partnership with ENGIE."
Over a million people across Uganda will be able to access electricity for the first time that will power communications, provide light and make cooking easier, he added.
According to Fayolle, the scheme will also reduce use of kerosene, charcoal and candles to help families save money, reduce pollution and reduce the risk of accidents.
"Unlocking sustainable economic and social development through off-grid solar is key for Africa's future and the EIB is pleased to back this project in Uganda."
Yoven Moorooven, the chief executive officer of ENGIE Africa noted; "At ENGIE, we see the massive potential of the off-grid electrification sector as a way to bridge energy gaps across Africa, faster and more affordably. Every day families across Africa are able to access electricity for the first time using off-grid solar technology provided by ENGIE Africa."
Moorooven noted that their new partnership with the EIB in Uganda will allow Fenix to provide ultra-affordable PAYGO systems to millions of people in villages across the country, and that this will provide access to clean solar power and financial empowerment.
Providing access to energy in Africa, Moorooven added, is a huge undertaking, and that the company firmly believes that universal access to energy is achievable in the foreseeable future, through smart investments in a combination of national grid extension, solar home systems and mini-grids.
"With our off-grid platform, we are industrializing and scaling up the development of a wide range of decentralized solutions, with a sustainable business model. As of now, ENGIE is providing decentralized electricity to more than 4.5 million people in nine countries through solar home systems from both Fenix and ENGIE Mobisol, as well as mini-grids from ENGIE PowerCorner," Moorooven said.
According to ENGIE Africa, this will help in solving the last mile challenge by providing power in remote communities across Uganda.
"Only one in five Ugandans living in remote and rural communities has access to reliable electricity. By scaling up adoption of off-grid solar technology this new initiative will provide economic, social, education and health opportunities for families and entrepreneurs who cannot be connected to the national electricity network," the statement said.
Under the initiative, customers will also be able to benefit from Fenix International's service centres that provide support in 30 languages across Uganda. It will also support private sector growth and sustainable development in Uganda.
Attilio Pacifici, the European Union Ambassador to Uganda observed; "The European Union is committed to supporting sustainable economic and social development across Uganda. This new cooperation initiative between the EIB and Fenix International, a subsidiary of leading European energy company ENGIE, demonstrates the value-added of European engagement with Ugandan partners to advance the country's development vision.
"Harnessing renewable energy through innovative off-grid solar technology, combined with productive uses of power in rural areas, is a direct demonstration of the European Union's green deal for Africa, providing new opportunities for millions of Ugandans."
Daniel Willette, the Managing Director Fenix Uganda said; "Providing hundreds of thousands of new solar home systems through the PAYGO model will allow our Ugandan team to transform communities across the country. We are proud to be the latest national off- grid power operation to be supported by the European Investment Bank and we will work tirelessly to illuminate homes and provide clean power until all of Uganda can access electricity."
Customers will also benefit from cheaper costs and easier repayment through use of mobile banking, he said, adding that this will also provide other financial products and allow customers to expand existing equipment as needed.
Over the last decade the EIB has provided more than 5.4 billion Euros for clean energy investment across Africa.
In recent years, the EIB has been a leading financier for the Bujagali hydropower project in Uganda, the Lake Turkana Wind Farm, Olkaria Geothermal plant and the Radiant and Eldosol solar schemes, as well as financing last mile connections in Kenya. The EIB is also supporting studies to harness hydropower to transform clean energy in Burundi and the Great Lakes region.