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A $3M AgriSolar renewable energy project launched

Mott Foundation, a well-known philanthropic organization, has unveiled a groundbreaking initiative called DREEM (Distributed Renewable Energy Ecosystem Model). This $3 million initiative is designed to support ecosystem builders operating within Uganda’s AgriSolar economy.

DREEM aims to adopt a collaborative, multi-stakeholder approach to address critical energy access challenges faced by smallholder farmers in Uganda. These challenges include limited technical expertise, a shortage of local entrepreneurs, restricted financial services, poor coordination, and the overall impact on community livelihoods due to limited energy access.

Robert Ddamulira stressed the need for deliberate efforts to support the adoption and usage of solar technology in the agricultural sector. This includes optimizing opportunities in the demand and supply chain to streamline the development, deployment, financing, sale, and maintenance of solar technologies for smallholder farmers.

Arthur Mukembo, the Lead of Future Lab Studios, noted that DREEM represents a significant step towards creating an enabling environment for solar innovators. The initiative aims to facilitate the growth and scalability of solar ventures, ultimately contributing to Uganda’s sustainable energy and agricultural future.

Mukembo emphasized that addressing financing bottlenecks would play a crucial role in promoting innovation and the wider adoption of solar technologies in key agricultural value chains and related sectors.

Uganda is on the brink of embracing the renewable energy revolution as it seeks to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. According to the Renewable Energy Policy of 2013, Uganda possesses substantial renewable energy potential, including 200MW from solar electricity, 1650MW from biomass, 800MW from peat, 2200MW from hydropower stations, and 400MW from geothermal energy.

Given that more than two-thirds of Ugandans rely on agriculture for their livelihoods, solar-powered irrigation solutions hold significant promise for the country.

In a related development, rural business owners in Uganda are increasingly turning to green energy to power their operations. These entrepreneurs are opting for solar gadgets such as refrigerators, television sets, and lighting to overcome frequent power usage challenges.

Village Energy Solar Solution, a social enterprise operating in Kampala, conducted a survey on 36 off-grid SMEs that received solar refrigerators in 2018 across five districts. The results were encouraging, with businesses reporting improved performance.

The survey found that the average daily income increased significantly, from Shs146,000 to Shs262,000 per day. Daily revenue from drinks alone also saw a substantial boost, rising from approximately Shs45,000 to Shs108,000 per day. Approximately 50% of the surveyed businesses expanded into new business lines, and all respondents reported increased customer numbers and sales, with overwhelmingly positive feedback.

A follow-up survey conducted in 2020 by Energy4Impact revealed that 83% of the respondents noticed business growth over the previous two years due to the solar refrigerators. Additionally, 27% were able to purchase new solar systems or appliances thanks to their increased income and awareness.

The positive impact of solar energy on these businesses extended beyond finances. Respondents reported improved living standards, including land purchases, savings for future plans, and investments in projects like piggeries. Solar-powered refrigerators not only increased productivity but also cut energy costs and eliminated losses related to power interruptions.

Village Energy has teamed up with Equity Bank to provide affordable financial solutions to SMEs within the solar energy ecosystem. This partnership aims to further support the growth of sustainable businesses in underserved areas of Uganda.

Village Energy, a Uganda-registered for-profit social enterprise founded in 2008, is situated in Kampala and specializes in distributing customized solar solutions that enable productive use of energy (PUE) for businesses, non-profit institutions, and agriculture in underserved areas.

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