SVRG is carrying this project out jointly with our partners in Uganda, social enterprise EcoLife Foods, and community NGO Kiima Foods. This project is funded by InnovateUK, the UK’s Innovation Agency under the Energy Catalyst Round 7 programme.
Worldwide, there are more than 800m people living without any access to electricity. In Uganda, only 10% of the population has access to electricity. In the rural population this number drops to 5%. There is broad acknowledgement that minigrids offer some of the best options for decentralised energy access, since they are more easily scalable and deliver power at levels that can actually drive development outcomes. At the same time, few minigrids have been able to reach commercial sustainability, though having an anchor client (a significant industrial use, for example) has been shown (eg by the Rockefeller Foundation in India) to make minigrids more operationally and commercially viable. But few rural communities have such anchor clients readily available.
This project aims to test and validate a novel integrated business model that combines community mini-grids with innovative Farmer’s Enterprise Centres as anchor loads, in order both to optimise the performance, sustainability and affordability or the minigrid, as well as to improve the ability of the local community to pay for the energy services.
These anchor load Centres comprise a suite of (electricity-catalysed) technologies for improving yields, reducing losses and improving profits; including irrigation pumps, improved data, cold storage, drying and processing technologies. We predict that this anchor client usage of electricity from the minigrid, and the increased economic return to community farmers, will combine to improve the long term commercial viability and sustainability of the minigrids for community energy access. And since almost all rural communities in Uganda and beyond have agriculture as their overwhelming livelihood activity, and therefore would make use of a Farmer’s Enterprise Centre, this innovative combination of a minigrid that comes with its own anchor load should result in faster, more sustainable and commercially viable roll-out of minigrids and energy access across rural communities in Uganda and elsewhere in the developing world