SolarNow to bring off-grid PV to 17,500 more Ugandan homes


Uganda-based off-grid solar installer SolarNow has received funding from Sunfunder, responsAbility, and Oikocredit worth $9 million, for the deployment of off-grid solar in its home market. The backing will fund 17,500 off-grid solar systems, said the company.

SolarNow says that would amount to around 2.5 MW of new off-grid solar capacity and provide easier energy access for around 70,000 people, with the installer emphasizing the number of women who would benefit.

SolarNow CEO Willem Nolens said the funding stream meant the company could focus on its core business, rather than seeking fundraising. He pointed out the credit portfolio under the SAFI structure designed by Sunfunder remained “healthy” due to careful selection of clients, and added he expects continued sustainable growth.

SunFunder director of investments Surabhi Visser said: “We have just had our fifth anniversary [of] working with SolarNow, and this takes us to $19 million in investments that we’ve arranged or made directly in the company. We are proud to have backed SolarNow’s growth, delivering top quality solar systems and appliances throughout Uganda.”

Off-grid, on the money

The new financing SAFI product is offered by SunFunder to solar companies deploying systems on a pay-as-you-go or solar leasing model. The current debt facility marks the third iteration of syndication between Sunfunder, responsAbility, and Oikocredit. ResponsAbility’s head of district investments, Stefan Issler, said he was excited about SolarNow’s growth and looked forward to supporting the company as a long-term financing partner.

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Last year, a range of reports highlighted the feasibility of off-grid solar for bringing electricity access to the near one billion people that lack it. Low-income regions which are vast and sparsely populated are prohibitively expensive to connect to national grids and bringing solar systems to such villages is a considerably cheaper option in many regions. The World Bank and other financial institutions have been putting large sums into the deployment of off-grid solar systems in Sub-Saharan Africa especially.

For example, Kenya recently announced a roadmap to universal energy access, whereby the government and the World Bank would set a clear focus on off-grid installations.

Solar establishing a foothold

The government of Uganda in October issued a joint request for expressions of interest in deploying decentralized renewables. Uganda’s solar development has so far comprised a 10 MW plant built with funding from the EU-Africa Trust Fund’s GET FiT – Global Energy Transfer Feed in Tariff – Solar Facility, off-grid projects and mini-grids.

Power Africa, a U.S. government-led initiative, announced in February the launch of its Uganda Electricity Supply Accelerator, an $11 million program to support the government of Uganda’s electrification goals. The nation has a generation capacity of 947 MW and is looking to reach 1.5 GW by next year.

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