Geospatial Electrification Analysis for Uganda: A case for renewables

Meeting the Ugandan UNFCCC focal point for the first time
January 28, 2019
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Geospatial Electrification Analysis for Uganda: A case for renewables

Context

From 14th to 31st January 2019, I took part in the second Energy Modelling Platform for Africa (EMP-A) in Cape Town, South Africa. 

EMP-A provided an excellent opportunity to bring together the energy planning and modelling community in Africa and share experiences, models and data in climate, land, energy and water systems. During the School on Modelling Tools for Sustainable Development the participants acquired skills on energy modelling using open-source modelling tools for sustainable development pathways under the guidance of leading academics and researchers in the field of model-informed development strategies, among them the Geo-spatial Electrification Modelling.


In Uganda, the electrification rate as at the end of the financial year 2017/18 stood at 23%, which is one of the lowest in Africa. Using the Open Source Spatial Electrification Tool (OnSSET), which is geographic information system (GIS) based, I estimate energy demand and the most cost effective renewable energy supply option for different locations across Uganda. In the context of the Uganda energy sector, data utilised includes that on current and planned infrastructure (grid networks, road networks, power plants, industry, and public facilities), population characteristics (distribution, location), economic and industrial activity, and local renewable energy flows.

Scenarios

Least-cost renewables electrification options for 2027 were calculated and mapped for about 5.68 million people across locations in Uganda considering a consumption of 20kWh/person/year for the rural setup and 100kWh/person/year for the urban setup. The Stand Alone Solar PV electrification option (generating a total of 59 MW) in this case is viable for about 5.44 million people, Mini Grid Solar PV (1 MW) for about 0.079 million people and Mini Grid Hydro (4 MW) for about 0.16 million people.

Least-cost renewables electrification options for 2030 were calculated and mapped for about 8.69 million people across locations in Uganda considering the same consumption as in the 2027 scenario. SA_PV has a total generation of 71 MW while MG_PV has total generation of 99MW.

Policy insights and conclusions

 Stand Alone Solar PV

The Solar Home Systems market is one of the biggest areas for commercially driven solar PV business in Uganda. This incorporates Pico Solar PV systems which are miniaturised applications of solar photovoltaics in the market with examples including lanterns, garden lights, torches, etc. but excluding street lights.

The Government of Uganda should:

  1. Promote the widespread use of stand-alone solar PV systems for domestic and commercial purposes
  2. Formulate and enforce standards for components, installation, maintenance and after-sales service of standalone solar energy technologies

Mini-grids

As at the year 2030 mini-grids are bound to increasingly become a preferred solution for increasing electricity access across Uganda.

The Government of Uganda should:

  1. Promote bundled mini-grid tenders to increase economies of scale, optimise tariffs and procure competent mini-grid developers
  2. Undertake pre-feasibility studies for identified mini-grid sites to minimize technical risk to prospective developers

Future work

 The analysis provides the basis for an array of future analysis. This includes informing area specific electrification support strategies for renewable technologies. These take cognisance of area specific levels of development partner assistance required, or conceivably logistics planning.

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