Tapping the Sun

after two commercial banks agreed to extend credit to consumers and guarantee loans for import of equipment, Uganda has started installing solar units for its long awaited solar rural electrification programme. The technical aspect of the pilot project will last three years. It is expected to cost us $1.7 million. The us Agency for International Development ( usa i d ) is financing the project. Moreover, financial and technical assistance will also be extended to Uganda's two battery manufacturing companies to help them produce batteries on a large scale for use in the solar systems.

It is expected that the project will provide electricity to 2,000 households and four communities living in rural areas or on the periphery of urban centres. These communities do not have access to the hydroelectric power generated and distributed by the Uganda Electricity Board ( ueb ), which is a monopoly hydroelectricity producer. The board can provide power to only five per cent of the total estimated population of 20.6 million. The electricity demand of even that five per cent cannot be met. At present, the board supplies only 180 megawatt (mw) at peak times, though the peak demand is estimated at about 240 mw. This has been the main cause of chronic load-shedding.

In view of the seriousness of the power shortage, Uganda has sought funds from donors so as to provide credit to the rural poor. This would enable them to purchase the solar units.

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