More Ugandans embrace solar energy

Solar energy utilization is reported to be growing with statistics showing more than 1.3 million consumers last year.

According to the 2018 sales and impact data report compiled by the Uganda Solar Energy Association­ (USEA), an umbrella association made up of over 160 solar companies in Uganda, over 313,424 solar systems were sold last year, their impact reaching up to 1.3 million people.

According to the report, uptake of solar products is highest the central Uganda region where 118,830 products were sold which is much higher as compared to other regions.

Eastern region bought 68,857 solar products while Western region (66, 054) and Northern region (59,683) followed respectively.

The report is silent on why central region, which is the most connected on the grid, is buying more solar. However, one of the reasons could be that that there is increasing load shedding and people prefer to have a solar lantern just in case.

The cost of electricity is another push for people to go for solar. Multi-light systems, where the product can be used for lighting, charging, and other small errands, accounted for most of the products sold (43.6%) followed by solar lanterns (23.5 %).

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.

This arrangement is called pay-as-you-go or PayGO and buyers here pay their loan via mobile money.  The report says high taxes on mobile money proved one of the biggest hindrances to poor households that bought the lanterns.

“The general increase in terms of volume of sales and of PayGo as a mode of payment shows a dynamic Ugandan off-grid sector that is moving towards more affordable customer payment solutions,” the report says.

But this arrangement also shows the need to work on improving people’s incomes – as many can’t afford to pay fully for a product of just Shs 60,000.

Eastern region had the highest number of people getting the solar products on credit. They are followed by the north. Central region had the highest number of people paying by cash followed by Western Uganda – an indicator that people living in these regions have more disposal income.

Buying solar came with several advantages, the report claims. It says many customers were able to extend their working day or 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 which could ultimately boost their income.

The report also says, the number of solar sales translates into 265,000 kerosene lanterns being replaced by off-grid solar products, a healthy fit for the users saved from the tons of carbon dioxide that come with use kerosene lamps.