The use of solar energy to power businesses in rural areas is growing, as business owners choose to use solar devices like refrigerators, televisions, and lighting to address frequent power supply issues. Village Energy Solar Solution, a social enterprise based in Kampala, has reported this trend.
According to Village Energy Solar Solution, the acceptance of green energy in rural business operations is on the rise. They base their assessment on a survey supported by the Global LEAP Awards Refrigeration Challenge. This survey involved 36 off-grid small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in five districts, which received solar refrigerators in 2018. The SMEs reported improvements in their business performance.
The survey found that the average daily income increased from Shs146,000 to Shs262,000 per day. Additionally, daily revenue from drink sales alone rose from approximately Shs45,000 to Shs108,000 per day.
Around 50% of the surveyed businesses reported expanding into new business lines, and all respondents noted an increase in customers and sales, with overwhelmingly positive feedback.
A follow-up survey conducted in 2020 by Energy4Impact regarding the impact of the 2018 refrigerator distribution revealed that 30 out of 36 respondents (83%) still had the solar fridges they received, and 89% struggled to find a suitable alternative to the solar fridge. Remarkably, 86% were inclined to recommend the fridge to a friend, rating it between 8-10 out of 10.
The survey also showed that 83% of the respondents experienced business growth in the two years prior due to the solar fridges, and 27% were able to purchase new solar systems or appliances with their additional income and awareness.
Overall, the survey conveyed feelings of gratitude and satisfaction among respondents. Many reported achieving various goals, such as buying land, saving money for future plans, purchasing clothes for their children, and initiating projects like piggeries, ultimately improving their quality of life.
According to Waringa Matindi, the Chief Executive Officer of Village Energy, solar energy refrigerators are continually enhancing livelihoods and increasing incomes by improving productivity, extending working hours, expanding product and service offerings, reducing energy costs, and eliminating energy-related business losses.
Equity Bank is collaborating with Village Energy to offer affordable financial solutions to SMEs in the solar energy sector.
Village Energy is a registered for-profit social enterprise in Uganda, established in 2008, and based in Kampala. It specializes in distributing customized solar solutions that facilitate productive energy use for businesses, non-profit organizations, and agriculture in underserved areas.