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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Jack Barrie

A study on the diffusion of pay as you go solar technology in Uganda


Approximately 1.2 billion people lack basic access to electricity. The launch of the United Nations 'Sustainable Energy for All' initiative exemplifies the urgent need to address this issue. Recent advancements in photovoltaic, light emitting diode and battery technology have resulted in the rise of affordable and innovative household electricity technologies and business models. Although these technologies are now within reasonable reach of consumers living at the bottom of the pyramid, penetration remains low. One of the main reasons for low penetration is the complexity surrounding last mile distribution. This study focusses on one of the most promising ‘last mile’ electricity service delivery models - Pay As You Go Solar Home Systems. It applies the diffusion of innovation theory as a framework to investigate the ‘last mile’ challenges encountered when launching Pay As You Go Solar Home Systems in northern Uganda.
Recommendations on how to overcome these challenges are based on quantitative analysis of Pay As You Go transaction and customer usage data for 1352 solar home systems in northern Uganda over the period of one year as well as qualitative analysis of field level observations and stakeholder interviews.
By gaining a deeper insight into the 'last mile' challenges, solar energy providers can begin to adapt their business models and technologies to scale more rapidly and sustainably and ultimately play a critical role in the social, economic and environmental development of low income countries.