Uganda and UK sign solar power access agreement, 10 MW solar farm brought online

The U.K.’s Department for International Development (DFID) in Uganda has signed an Energy Africa Compact agreement with Ugandan officials that will work towards improving access to solar energy to the estimated 30 million people in the country without access to electricity.

According to the DFID, four out of every five Ugandans do not have access to a reliable source of power, and so the agreement’s chief aim will be to reduce this number by documenting strategic areas where the adoption of solar home power and lighting systems can be installed quickly and cheaply.

The aim of the Compact is to electrify the entire country by 2030, and the Ugandan Ministry for Energy and Mineral Development has created a conducive environment to enable solar to thrive, including a VAT exemption on major solar components, financial support for private sector companies, provision of solar end-user subsidies, capacity building through the training of technicians, as well as the establishment of innovative solar financing models.

The U.K.’s involvement will be largely as a facilitator, removing market barriers and enabling companies and Uganda’s government to come together and see through their aims. According to Jennie Barugh, head of the DFID Uganda office, the aim is to expedite Uganda’s path towards becoming a more modern and inclusive economy, with a particular focus on eradicating poverty.

"Energy poverty undermines productivity, job creation and livelihoods, reduces the ability of the state to provide basic services, and directly affects health and education outcomes – with disproportionate impacts on women and girls," said Barugh. “"This Compact will improve access and innovation in the solar energy market, increasing energy access for all. Access to solar power will save people and businesses money on expensive forms of energy and reduce the time women and girls spend gathering fuel to burn."

The DFID’s calculations reveal that Uganda’s lack of energy access limits annual GDP by around 1-2%, while 50% of businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa view a lack of reliable electricity access as a major constraint to doing business.

10 MW Soroti plant commissioned

Following the agreement with the U.K.’s DFID, Uganda’s Minister of State for Energy D’Ujanga Simon announced that Access Power and Eren RE had completed the commissioning of a 10 MW solar plant in Soroti, the largest solar farm in East Africa.

The $19 million nstallation comprises 32,680 solar panels and will generate enough clean electricity to meet the power needs of 40,000 households. The project was developed under the Global Energy Transfer FIT (GET GFIT), which is a renewables support scheme managed by Germany’s KfW Development Bank in partnership with Uganda’s Electricity Regulatory Agency (ERA). Additional funding is also forthcoming from the governments of the U.K., Norway, Germany and the EU.

"The Soroti plant is also one of the eight renewable energy projects in Uganda to have benefited from the UK Aid supported Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF) – part of the multilateral Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG)," added Barugh. "The UK is committed to supporting and improving the lives of Ugandans – with the vast majority (80%) living without access to clean modern energy – helping Uganda leave aid dependency behind."

The EU’s head of delegation to Uganda, H.E. Ambassador Kristian Schmidt, added: "Uganda is a good place to invest in solar energy. The regulatory framework is conducive and Government rightly recognizes Uganda’s energy future must be renewable. It is great that this is now triggering private sector interest in solar power generation. The European Union is proud that our grant contribution ensures the realization of the Soroti Solar Plant, and I hope this is only just the beginning for many more to come."