Village Energy Uganda

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Village Energy Uganda

Project Stage:
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Village Energy is working to ensure that there is a skilled solar technician in every village across Uganda that, together, will form the basis of an elaborate national network of micro-franchises that provide the required information, technologies, installation and after-sales services to last mile clean energy consumers.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

There is a critical need for clean energy solutions in Uganda. According to government sources, only 15 percent of the population in Uganda (independent sources put this as low as 9%) has access to electricity. This translates to 29 million people - mostly low-income populations in rural areas and urban slums - who burn fossil fuels, usually kerosene, for light and heat. It is estimated that 1 million liters of kerosene are burned daily in Uganda alone. Households and small businesses that rely on kerosene for lighting spend up to 20 percent of their annual incomes on energy. They spend more on medical bills due to the negative impact on health outcomes from kerosene fumes. 30 percent of the population that uses kerosene report having lost property to kerosene related fires. Although the market for clean energy products is growing in Uganda and East Africa, this growth is biased to the supply-side where there has been a notable increase in foreign solar products. However, on the demand-side, there have been low adoption rates of these new technologies outside of core urban areas despite the benefits that they could bring. Abu has diagnosed that the low rate of adoption of clean energy in Uganda, and much of Africa, is a result of common mistrust in new technologies at the last mile. This low confidence is caused by the critical lack of skilled human resources that can help with these products (both in terms of sales and repairs) within the communities that desperately need these technologies. Currently, most distribution chains focus on recruiting rural entrepreneurs – normally storekeepers – who dedicate part of their shelf space to vend solar lanterns. Even if these products reach a few last mile consumers in villages, they do not fulfill the need for technical expertise at the last mile. Consumers, therefore, fail to get the after-sales services from storekeepers that they need. This leads to an accumulated distrust of the products and technologies behind them, which ultimately holds back the clean energy market in Uganda and beyond.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Abu operates from the unique perspective that clean energy should not be an end in itself, rather as a critical means to development goals such as healthcare, access to education and employment for energy-marginalized communities. Village Energy produces and distributes locally made solar energy products that provide innovative solutions to energy needs and contribute towards positive educational and health outcomes for rural communities. Unlike other clean energy models such as Solar Sister and Solar Kiosk, Village Energy’s local production and distribution chains enable it to innovate and produce new clean energy solutions to local development issues that commonly affect off-grid populations in Uganda. After years of iteration, Abu has diagnosed that the rate at which clean energy solutions will scale in developing countries is directly proportional to the numerical growth and geographical spread of skilled solar technicians to win and maintain trust of the last mile clean energy consumers. He recognizes that this lack of trust in clean energy products inhibits the adoption of these crucial technologies that will yield environmental, economic and social benefits. Abu is working to build a network of last mile technicians in rural villages that provide technical services and after-sales support to consumers and collectively, build consumer confidence in clean energy products. He has developed a curriculum to train and certify existing village electricians who run village radio shacks, the best of which become Village Energy franchisees. In this way, he is improving the skills of these local technicians who become knowledgable on clean energy products and how to repair them. In the long run, this network of tecnicians will ideally contribute to new ideas and products in the clean energy space and assisting customers with their after-sales needs, thereby enabling the normalization of clean energy across Uganda and beyond.