Recent statistics show an increase in the utilization of solar products among Ugandans which offers hope for the realization of the government's rural electrification strategy and plan (RESP) that aims to increase rural electricity access to 26 per cent by 2022 through a mix of grid and off-grid services, writes SADAB KITATTA KAAYA.
Aaccording to the 2018 sales and impact data report compiled by the Uganda Solar Energy Association (USEA), more than 1.3 million Ugandans were connected to off-grid solar systems last year.
The report, which focused on about 160 companies under USEA, indicates that a total of 313,424 off-grid solar products were sold in 2018 with the largest quantities being sold in central Uganda. These accounted for 118,830 solar energy products, followed by eastern region where 68,857 products were sold.
In western Uganda, 66,054 households were connected to the off-grid systems while 59,683 households were connected in northern Uganda.
"Many customers are also using their off-grid solar products to support their business activities. In 2018, an estimated 97,000 people undertook more economic activity as a result of their purchase of off-grid solar products," stated Joyce Nkuyahaga, the USEA chief executive officer.
"Over the lifetime of the products sold, on average of two to four years, this economic activity could help customers generate over $50 million (Shs 182.5 billion) in additional income. The number of solar sales translate into 265,000 kerosene lanterns being replaced by off-grid solar products," Nkuyahaga further stated.
According to the ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, about 10 per cent of Uganda's population has access to electricity. The situation is worse in rural areas where less than five per cent of the households are connected to electricity.
"The limited access to electricity, especially in rural areas, hampers enterprise development and the ability to improve livelihoods," the report reads.
The cost of electricity is among the factors pushing for people to go for solar. This explains why, according to the report, multi-light systems, where the product can be used for lighting, charging or to watch TV, accounted for most of the solar products sales.
The share of multi-light systems sales increased to 53 per cent from 39.7 per cent in the first half of 2018 compared to the second half of 2018, the report indicates. One of the driving forces is the fact that many people are able to buy a product on credit and spread the payment for several months through a mobile payments platform known as PayGo.
"Over 75 per cent of multi-light systems and smaller solar home systems (SHS) are sold through PayGo. The increasing adoption of PayGo business models has contributed to improving access to relatively expensive systems, in particular among lower-income communities," the the report reads.