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Examining the Level of Public Participation in the Development of East Africas's Off-grid Energy Sector

Outline of Tonny Kukeera's research project
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Author: Tonny Kukeera

Overall, the off-grid energy industry in Africa has seen unprecedented growth in support from foreign countries through different programs. Undeniably, foreign private sector involvement and large-scale international programs, e.g. Power Africa are a substantial part of securing these funds. Given all this increased support and efforts towards the delivery of energy services, there is still limited impact on the side of appliance uptake in many African countries and especially Ugandan communities. Energy transition is a “journey” that involves many processes and a lot of dynamics. There are still many unknowns about electricity access as a topic, and in developing countries in general. Many a time, electricity access in the global South has been largely perceived as a technology problem. It is critical to acknowledge and address themes on affordability, distribution, and awareness. Most importantly, awareness as it precedes the adoption process of new technologies. The significance of public participation in energy transitions cannot be overemphasized as it lays a foundation for answering some of the most crucial concerns raised by users, which is, what frames their understanding of solar technology and purchase of energy services.

This research develops a novel, integrated approach for rural development in sub-Saharan Africa through paving ways for sustainable energy uptake. The study examines top-down approaches as they affect the progression of off-grid energy uptake in Ugandan rural communities. Drawing from the literature on foreign involvement in the African energy industry, and the growth in energy financing in general, the study analyses the delivery models employed in disseminating energy programs and the degree to which this has translated into the uptake of off-grid solar technologies. The study further investigates how well these approaches engage the rural communities, the different participation mechanisms, and the level of end-user understanding of energy purchases and services. 

Though an evolving research theme, this research feeds off results obtained from an earlier work - in the development of a low-cost real time SMS based feedback tool and seeks to answer questions on how community engagement can be improved in off-grid households. Moreover, climate resilience strategies have a lot to do with infrastructure and connectedness, connections between people and people, people and tech, tech and tech. Lastly, the scrutiny of the current renewable energy policies, and the consequences this has on the different energy industry actors at the top, and end-user at the bottom of the pyramid.

 


Microenergy Systems in collaboration with:
 - Alexander v. Humboldt Foundation
 - WIP at the TU Berlin
 - MicroEnergy International GmbH

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