In 1995, the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) completed its Uganda Pilot Solar Electrification Project in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, International. One hundred rural Ugandan homeowners have the benefit of solar electricity in their new Habitat-built homes, thanks to solar home systems (SHS) financed and installed by SELF. Funds for the project were provided by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Solar Energy Conversion. SELF trained Habitat’s Uganda personnel in solar pilot project management, and provided technical training for a core of local Habitat technicians to install and maintain the SHS. Training and field supervision were provided by SELF’s Nairobi-based Associates, Energy Alternatives Africa. Solar Energy for Africa (SEFA), a Kampala-based solar energy firm was contracted to undertake the training, homeowner education, PV system installation, and service.
Installed solar home systems for the project cost approximately $400 each and were supplied by Solar Energy for Africa (SEFA), a Ugandan-owned solar company using products made in the U.S. Qualifying families were offered 3 to 5 year loans for the purchase of the systems, with monthly payments equivalent to the cost of kerosene, candles and dry-cell batteries. Habitat’s Uganda office, which operates a home-building credit program, was utilized to collect monthly installment payments from the users. The money is capitalizing a revolving credit fund to be used for the purchase of additional solar systems. In order to avoid conflicts between loan repayments for their homes and their SHS, homeowners were required to have fully paid for their Habitat home to qualify for a SHS loan. As a result, many families paid off of their Habitat for Humanity mortgages early in order to acquire electricity from an SHS.
“News of the opportunity for solar electrification of Habitat for Humanity houses in Uganda was received with jubilation,” said Sefatiya Mboneraho of Habitat Uganda. “The solar systems have raised eyebrows among people in our communities, from Rwenzori to Masindi, sensitizing them on what solar energy can do to avail them of electricity in rural areas of Uganda, hitherto a dream!”
The Government of Uganda is currently investigating how it can launch a national solar electric lighting program for its millions of rural people forced to rely on kerosene, candles and dry-cell batteries for light and communication. SELF, the Americus, Georgia based Habitat for Humanity International, and the U.S. Department of Energy expect this pilot solar program will light the way for Uganda to put solar to work for its people.