Providing Access to Modern Energy Services in Uganda's Rural Areas using Multi Functional Platforms

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To provide modern energy services in rural communities through the installation of four multi functional platforms (MFPS) and improve thereby the living

EDG (Uganda) aimed to provide modern energy services through the installation of four Multi Functional Platforms (MFPs) in rural communities that had no access to modern energy. Each MFP consists of a small diesel engine mounted on a chassis, to which a variety of end use equipment can be attached, e.g. grinding mills or nut oil presses that allow improved opportunities for local income-generation. Main objective was to run these MFP on locally produced bio-diesel where the MFPs are part of the bio-diesel production cycle themselves. The project tested and evaluated four different implementation models with varying types of organsiation to find optimum solutions. UNDP, Ugandan government agencies and the beneficiary communities were partners in this project.


The majority of the population in Uganda lives in rural communities that have so far little or no access to modern energy services for agro-processing or domestic use. The project, implemented by the Energy & Development Group, has been designed to improve the access to modern energy services in the Masindi District of Western Uganda. The installed Multi Functional Platforms (MFPs) provide both mechanical and electrical energy to meet the local needs. Two of the MFPs are operating on biodiesel, produced from locally grown sunflower seed. The other two are operating on conventional diesel fuel. The selection of the communities has been based on socio- economic surveys conducted prior the implementation. The community had to be able and willing to contribute financially to the project. Four different models of operation have been implemented to allow the assessment of different implementation models prior to a planned wider replication across the country. The four models are constituted as follows:
  • An Energy Service Company (ESCO) approach where the biodiesel productionis outsourced.
  • An approach where the ESCO also grows/processes the bio-diesel.
  • The MFP is operated by a local women/community group.
  • The MFP is operated by a local institution such as a local government center, school or health clinic.

Technology, Operations and Maintenance

Each MFP consists of a small diesel engine of 50-60 kW mounted on a chassis, to which a variety of end use equipment can be attached (grinding mills, battery chargers, vegetable or nut oil presses, welding machines and carpentry tools). It can also support a mini-grid for lighting and electric pumps for a small water distribution network. Typically an MFP runs for around 4 hours a day, in the early morning and in the late afternoon. Each MFP can attract up to 200-300 regular clients, with the greatest demand being for processing agricultural products. The modules are designed and built locally using easily available skills, materials and parts. The configuration of equipment modules is flexible and can be adapted to the needs of each village. The MFP operators have been given practical training in the installation, operation and maintenance of the MFP as well as in the financial aspects of running the installation. In the two communities biodiesel plants had to be installed, which have been imported from South Africa. Considering that land access is a serious issue in Uganda, it has been decided to use high-yield sunflower seeds (yielding up to 800 kg/acre with a possible 40% oil content) to keep the land requirements for the biodiesel production as low as possible. A total of 75 acres (37.5 acres/site) of sunflower have been planted for the first season by contracted out-growers close to the biodiesel sites.

Financial Issues and Management

The cost for each MFPs that has been installed is around €15,000. The contributions of the four communities that could be raised have been as high as €15,900 in total. In the project four operational models have been implemented for the purpose of testing which would be the best for further replications. All MFP managers have been trained to acquire skills in bookkeeping and basic financial calculations. The operator is not only responsible for the operation and the maintenance of the system but also for the collection of fees from the users. The project is economically feasible, as the running costs of the platform and engine can be recovered through fees from the variety of services provided by the platform.

Environmental Issues

The use of the two biofuel MFPs results in approximately 80% less CO2 emissions, and almost 100% less SO2, compared to the use of conventional diesel fuel. Biodiesel is also safe to handle and transport. The annual CO2 emissions and the associated use of fossil fuel are reduced with the implementation of MFPs. The CO2 reduction potential is 48,400 kg CO2/year when compared to grid extension and 7,520 kg CO2/year when compared to the use of kerosene lamps.

Social Issues

With the active involvement of all members of the communities, the MFPs can significantly affect the social dynamics of the village life. The users get familiar to these modern technical elements. Furthermore the availability of lighting has improved the situation in the health and education sectors, with positive effects especially for living conditions of women.

Results & Impacts

The implementation of the MFPs provides modern energy services to the four rural communities. The positive impact is significant in the water, health and education sectors, with positive effects especially notable in the improved living conditions of women. In addition to providing access to energy, income- generating opportunities have also been established. It is also now possible to carry out agro-processing within the community itself, meaning that the community is more financially self-sufficient.


The project is highly replicable. It is expected that the implementation of the four MFP demonstration models will especially influence the neighboring villages and the public. Considering that studies had been done for a community in each region, the replicability costs will be lower. Only the MFPs have to be purchased and operators have to be trained. The recent East African Community (EAC) Regional Energy Access Scale-up Strategy explicitly recognized the MFP concept as having a unique applicability in the region. The knowledge that have been gained from the projects is collected and distributed more widely to both national and regional stakeholders as well as future potential donors.

Lessons learned

The knowledge that had been gained from the projects has been collated and distributed widely to both national and regional stakeholders as well as to future potential financial backers. There have been some technical problems on one site with the biodiesel plant but the sharing of expertise and experience between the different operators could help remedy future problems. Another key problem has been procurement of the seed from the farmers as up-front cash payment is required, which creates an issue for the operators who only make their money once the biodiesel is sold. To mitigate this problem, future projects need to consider that short-term loans need to be available to the operators in order that they can purchase the seed required for the biodiesel production.

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