Uganda opens first solar power plant

On Monday 11 December 2016 Uganda opened its first solar power plant. Located in Soroti, in north-eastern Uganda, the facility consists of 32,680 photovoltaic panels, will produce 10 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy and is expected to generate enough electricity to power 40,000 homes, businesses and schools in the area.

The $US19 million plant, located on a 33-acre plot of land, was financed through a mixture of debt and equity with funding received from Norway, Germany, the United Kingdom and the European Union. It was developed by Access Power, based in Dubai, and EREN RE, based in France.

Present at the inauguration ceremony were Uganda’s Minister of State for Energy, D’Ujanga Simon, along with representatives from the two developers and the donor organisations. Reda El Chaar, Access Power’s Executive Chairman, stated that “we are thrilled to have been given the opportunity to work with our European and Ugandan partners to bring to reality this flagship solar power plant. Soroti raises the bar on what can be achieved through teamwork and we look forward to more collaborative efforts to expand the footprint of clean energy across this mighty continent.”

The feedback and support from the donors has also been positive. Linda Broekhuizen, CEO of FMO Dutch Development Bank, said that “renewable energy projects like these are fully in line with our aim to positively affect peoples’ lives by supporting development, creating jobs and providing clean and sustainable energy to Uganda. While Oscar Kang’oro, a Non-Executive Director of the Emerging Africa Investment Fund (EAIF), believes that renewable energy projects like this “can unlock economic potential, create new economic development opportunities, grow the productivity of public services and improve energy security.”

Like in the development of other renewable energy plants the facility was expected to create socio-economic opportunities both during construction and after it was complete. At the peak of construction, the plant had 120 workers on site including engineers who had been recruited and trained by the two project developers. These workers will be able to use and apply their skills on the development of other renewable energy projects in Uganda in the future. Now complete, the plant has the potential to increase its net output capacity by a further 20 MW of solar energy.

Uganda, an east-African country of 34 million people, is expected to intensify its efforts to increase its power supply from the current level of 850 MW of electricity to 1500 MW, and renewable energy is expected to be prominent role. Reuters has reported that Uganda recently entered into a loan agreement with German development bank KfW and AFD, a French government finance agency, in order to build a 45 MW power plant in the western part of the country.