Government, Donors and Private Sector to Partner for Promotion of Solar Mini-grids in Off-Grid Areas

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Uganda’s Rural Electrification Agency (REA) with support from GIZ’s Promotion of Mini-Grids in Northern Uganda (Pro Mini-Grids NU) project, has set plans in motion to electrify a group of 25 villages in Lamwo district, through the use of solar powered mini-grids. Over 6,000 people, including institutions, businesses and households, are expected to benefit from the first phase of this project.

The Pro Mini Grids NU project was launched at a mini-grid developers’ workshop on 31st October, in Kampala. The workshop sought to invite local and international companies to take part in various aspects of project operations. The event was a follow – up to a call for Expressions of Interest for a reverse-auction tender to facilitate selection of a competent project developer.

This is the first bundled tender in Uganda for mini-grid projects, allowing private developers to invest in, install and operate village electricity distribution projects. The project is supported by the European Union (EU) and the German Government, and implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Uganda. The Ugandan Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, the Rural Electrification Agency, the Electricity Regulatory Authority and GIZ Uganda are implementing the project which will run until 2020.

Mini-grids are isolated generation and distribution plants, which provide an electricity connection to each of the buildings in a rural village. They operate just like the national grid, but without the need for expensive medium and high-voltage transmission lines. The power from a mini-grid is sufficient to run anything from household lighting, to sound systems, salon equipment, water pumps and even large mills and welding machines.

The Government of Uganda is targeting 22% rural connectivity by 2022, It is anticipated that about a third of the population will benefit best from off-grid solutions. The Pro Mini-Grids approach has therefore been designed to put in place a policy and regulatory framework to relieve the challenges which companies have been facing in the implementation of mini-grid projects.The success of this tender will unlock private investments in the off-grid electricity generation and distribution sector in Uganda.

Following this pilot phase, it is expected that the model will be scaled up by Government and partners to electrify many more rural Ugandan communities. This will not only satisfy rural demand, but also improve energy security, reducing the strain on the national grid and dependence on large-scale hydro-electric dams.

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