two men on roof install solar panel

UN Capital Development Fund CleanStart Programme

Ily Roldan-Stack Uncategorized

CleanStart is a programme administered by the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) to bridge the access to energy gap in impoverished communities with clean energy.

“Universal access to modern energy is like the engine to a country’s growth.”


The initiative recognizes the widespread use of traditional, inefficient, and often dangerous methods of using solid fuels, and in turn addresses the barriers to accessing clean energy for these users. This global problem touches approximately 1.2 billion people who lack access to electricity, of which 95% reside in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia (Source: World Energy Outlook, 2013). To implement local environmentally friendly energy solutions, UNCDF co-invests in energy service companies, like Village Energy.

Uganda is one of the 20 countries with the largest electricity access deficits in the world. The problem of access to energy in Uganda is two-fold: a lack of infrastructure available to access grid electricity, and a lack of access to capital to outright purchase a pre-packaged off-grid energy system.

(Source: UNCDF Clean Start Uganda)

Village Energy is a social enterprise that has been serving Ugandans for almost a decade. We provide customized solar energy solutions to rural education centres, health care facilities, businesses and other community players in rural and urban Uganda. The solutions are customizable not only in scope and scale, but in the financing model as well. To make clean energy more accessible to all Ugandans, Village Energy has adopted a pay-as-you-go (PAY-GO) finance model. This allows local entrepreneurs, non-profit organisations, and the likes to continue to contribute to a productive business ecosystem by having access to energy while making monthly payments. Our vision is that by providing reliable clean energy systems and continued technical service, small local businesses and communities will experience sustainable growth and an increased productive capacity.

“Provision of these basic services [including electricity and other forms of energy] goes hand-in-hand with economic growth, social inclusion, poverty reduction and equality.”

(Source: UN SDG Report 2018)

In recent years, there has been heavy investment in PAY-GO solar home systems that bring clean energy into households. However, very little has been done on solar for productive use and therefore the solar industry has had little impact on bring more incomes into households. Village Energy is at the forefront of the productive use of energy and having UNCDF’s support is allowing Village Energy to scale productive use solar technologies. This is VE’s first project with UNCDF and the partnership agreement is running up to 2021.

affordable and clean energy

Village Energy is committed to the UN SDG7 through boosting access, affordability, and trust in solar in rural East Africa through by setting up a last-mile solar distribution and after-sales service network. We set up retail locations and train local young men and women to sell, install, maintain and fix solar products & installations. Our goal is to build an East Africa-wide distribution network and supply chain that will create thousands of jobs, promote women and men as solar experts in their communities, and increase access to affordable & reliable solar energy. Once fully established, this network can become the backbone of a rural solar economy based on productive use of energy.

 “From 2000 to 2016, the proportion of the global population with access to electricity increased from 78 per cent to 87 per cent, with the absolute number of people living without electricity dipping to just below 1 billion.”

(Source: UN SDG Report 2018)

Our vision is optimistic; the solar energy sector is rich with opportunity and potential in Uganda. We are looking forward to seeing an equitable future, where all can access clean and affordable energy.