Comprehensive support for rural electrification and cooperative development

NRECA International has a long history of providing support to the expansion of rural electrification and to the development of rural electric cooperatives in Uganda.  This comprehensive involvement has included the development of rural electrification master plans, an off-grid electrification strategy, supporting Uganda’s Electricity Connections Policy, providing an affordable house wiring design solution, a training and institutional strengthening needs assessment for the rural electric cooperatives, a productive use of energy program, and a national distribution

Building a solid foundation: Master plans for electricity access

From 2010 to 2012, NRECA International supported  the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) to update the Rural Electrification Strategy and Plan II (RESP) – the blueprint that defines how electrification access is expanded in Uganda.  This project was financed by the World Bank and provided a clear framework that has guided REA investments in grid and off-grid electrification expansion.

NRECA International continues to support REA’s aggressive program to rapidly increase electricity access in rural Uganda. Under the REA Master Plans project funded by the USAID/Power Africa program in Uganda, the team completed  master plans for all 13 service territories in 2019. The team also developed an off-grid electrification strategy that included actively engaging private sector service providers and developers to coordinate renewable energy mini-grids and stand-alone energy solutions as part of a larger national electrification planning paradigm.

Connecting people to power

Rural communities that already have access to power are expanding, while many consumers who are just 70 meters from a power line find themselves unable to pay for electric service.

In some places in rural Uganda, only 10% of community members have the resources to pay for the cost of an electric connection. To address this, Power Africa enlisted the NRECA International team to help REA define and implement the new Electricity Connections Policy (ECP) which was launched in November 2018. Under this initiative, consumers located up to 70 meters from a power line will receive free electricity connections, expediting and increasing  access for community members who are unable to pay connections fees.

In addition to supporting the very important consumer connection program the NRECA team also developed a low-cost house wiring solution designed to serve multi-room dwellings both safely and economically  in sub-Saharan Africa.

Cooperation among cooperatives

In 2011, the NRECA International team trained boards and staff members of two electric cooperatives and REA staff under the Strengthening Electric Cooperative Programs, funded by the USAID Cooperative Development Program. In 2018 the team conducted an assessment of four electric co-ops, and issued a report that outlined recommendations for training and institutional strengthening. As a follow up to this report, the team provided a board of director’s governance training in December 2018 and conducted a board appraisal activity in July 2019 to assess the impact of the training on the performance of each of the cooperatives.

This history of partnership and support continues with an ongoing project which will provide lineman skills and safety training as well as providing a business plan for the formation of an association of Uganda’s rural electric cooperatives.

Productive use of energy

USAID financed an effort to support rural community members to use electricity more productive. The NRECA team designed a productive use of energy  program to provide information, education and training to support income growth by community members.  Focusing on agricultural products and processing systems for coffee, dairy, livestock, maize, cassava, fruits, vegetables, and poultry, the team identified energy needs, processing equipment, investment requirements and revenue potential for the population of farmers who can benefit from improved access to credit and technical assistance.

The team is currently engaged in a follow up project to develop concrete productive use training and financing plans in multiple trading centers located in cooperative service territories. The team will provide business development skills training and mentoring to a selected group of productive use of electricity (PUE) entrepreneurs.

Strengthening the existing distribution network

In 2019, the NRECA International team completed a national distribution network condition and loss assessment that identified items that needed refurbishment or replacement, and quantified the level of technical and commercial losses, which can threaten the financial viability of the rural electric cooperatives if left unchecked.