Bringing Solar Energy to an Off-Grid, Low-Income Village

Social Issue:

Uganda has serious energy poverty challenges. Hydroelectricity, the main source of energy, is contributing only 1.4% to the national population (Ministry of Energy and Minerals Development, Strategic Investment Plan 2014/15 – 2018/19).   The majority of the off-grid communities are poor, cannot afford the cost of electricity and live in rural areas without the hydro-power distribution networks.

A total of 93% of rural households without access to electricity are currently using traditional lighting technologies such as candles or kerosene lamps that give poor quality lighting; emit noxious fumes and present hazards in terms of fires or burns (in particular for small children). Furthermore, the majority of social institutions (e.g. schools and health centers) in rural areas do not have access to electricity, which leads to inferior health and education services in comparison to electrified institutions (ibid). 

With this knowledge, the Solar Village Project aims to bring electricity to communities that are vulnerable to energy poverty, while also promoting green energy sources and reducing environmental impact. The project concentrates on a cluster of a community (Villages) that are off the hydropower grid; and installs solar systems for the beneficiaries to realize the maximum impact.

Project Description:

The Solar Village Project aims at utilizing the abundance of sunshine in Uganda to address the challenge of energy poverty within the villages. The project provides quality affordable clean solar energy solutions to community institutions and individual households. This is a project where one village is selected and provided with quality affordable clean energy solution like, basic home solar systems of lighting and charging phone, using micro-loaning system.

As an intern on this project, you will contribute to increasing the mileage of eradicating energy poverty within the local communities. Working alongside local community colleagues, the intern/volunteer will have the opportunity to identify villages that should be powered with solar energy; develop a user manual; sensitize and train the community end users on the benefits of having renewable clean energy; arrange community gathering; design payment plan for credit clients; and the Installations of solar systems. You will analyse service case and maintenance of existing solar systems in the community.

 Community Impact:

The community members are directly impacted with the solar energy usage which will enable them to use lighting, charge phones, and listen to the radio. This helps them stay connected with family members, local news, and with each other. Secondly, it reduces exposure to the harmful fumes that come from burning fuel for the individual’s health and the environment’s health. There are extensive indirect impacts of the project for example that children at home are able to study in the evenings using solar or having a charged phone allows someone to access their savings on mobile money.

By contributing to this initiative, you will be promoting the local communities’ access to affordable, reliable, renewable energy technologies. You will support your communities of placement to conserve their surroundings by creating awareness, increasing knowledge and promoting the utilization of the environmentally friendly solar and renewable energy. You will learn about the challenges of access to affordable, reliable and renewable energy technologies in Uganda; contribute to local communities’ capacity to conserve their surroundings using sustainable development approaches. You will gain Hands-on experience of working with local Ugandan communities striving to increase access to good energy solutions while making friends and exchanging cultural differences.

Skills Required:

This placement is open to individuals of any background.  However, the intern/Volunteer should be enthusiastic, self-driven and interested in capacity building.  Interns /volunteers should have interest in renewable energy; Have good communication skills and ability to take initiative; ready to be creative and innovative, and have a good command of spoken English.

Community Partner Description: 

Access to Solar Technologies (AST) is a social enterprise founded in 2016 by a team of experienced persons with support from other renewable energy experts, with a vision to avail access to clean energy solutions, among the poor, off grid households and actively engage them in renewable and environmental issues around Eastern Uganda.  AST exists to enable our community access affordable, reliable, renewable technologies and conserve the surrounding environment. The objectives are, to avail affordable solar solutions; Ensure quality services are given to the clients; Promotion of renewable solar energy; Doing the last mile distribution; Powering the off-grid communities; and Skilling young people with solar energy technical skills.

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