No Turning Back For Africa’s First Solar Bus

Kayoola was designed by Makerere University’s College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology Kayoola was designed by Makerere University’s College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology

A 35-seater solar bus branded Kayoola is an automobile described as Africa’s first solar-bus, a Ugandan-made Kiira Motors' Kayoola prototype electric vehicle having a collocate of two electric batteries that can charge on the solar panels built on its roof. It was launched in Feb 2016 at the Mandela National Stadium in Kampala.

One year down the road, government has increased the budget allocation for the development of Uganda’s Renewable Energy Science and Technology which increased from Shs14.2 billion it got in the 2016/17 fiscal year to Shs 71.9 billion in the 2017/2018 budget.

East African Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (EACREEE) was also launched by the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development Hon. Eng. Irene Muloni to act as an abode for further research and development of renewable energy innovations.

Kayoola was designed by Makerere University’s College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT), where the first ever Centre of excellence for East African Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (EACREEE) is situated.

During the launch of EACREEE, Hon. Eng. Irene Muloni said the Centre will proceed to contributing towards increased access to modern, affordable, sustainable and reliable energy services in Uganda and the East African region.

Established by the partner member states of the East African Community (EAC) with support from the Austrian Development Agency and United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), EACREEE is destined to making sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) a reality in 2030. The center is based at Makerere University’s College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT) and operates through a network of National Focal Institutions among all East African States.

According to the Principal of Makerere University College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology Assoc. Prof. Henry Alinaitwe, EACREEE is geared towards increased access to energy security and mitigation of negative externalities of energy systems (such as pollution) by creating an enabling environment for renewable energy and energy efficiency markets and investments.

Assoc. Prof. Henry Alinaitwe said that the centre will also promote all appropriate and sustainable renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, promote small-scale and medium-scale hydro power projects, and Bio-fuel projects which prove to be sustainable and Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) cooking projects.

“EACREEE will also support and execute Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency activities and projects which cover one or more EAC Partner States focusing primarily on activities and projects with regional impact or national projects which demonstrate high potential for scaling-up or regional replication,” he  said.

While launching the centre, the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development Hon. Eng. Irene Muloni said adequate renewable energy is key in promoting industrialisation and subsequently achieving Uganda’s middle income status by 2020. She therefore said that the creation of this facility will support the efforts to realise this target.

“Majority of Ugandans are in the rural areas and they rely on bio mass including charcoal and agricultural waste for energy. Fortunately, 85% of the energy Uganda relies on is renewable and thus need to fully tap into its potential. Only a few of the population are connected to the electricity power and this remains a major constraint to industrial activities particularly manufacturing,” she unequivocally stated.

In a bid to counter these shortfalls, Minister (designate) Muloni said the regional strategy is working towards wider penetration of renewable energy through its Northern Corridor Integration and Standardized High Voltage projects.

The EAC Deputy Secretary General Jessica Ariyo thanked the Austrian Development Agency and United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) plus the Government of Uganda for their continued support toward the development of the centre to advance science and technology in Uganda when she said that,

 “The center is a milestone in the integration process and needs to be taken seriously. We hope that this will facilitate a dialogue and exchange of ideas between stakeholders in the private sector within the EAC member states.”

Describing industry and energy as important sectors, the Director General of United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Mr. Philippe Scholtes noted that the two sectors should stand alone if countries need to achieve sustainable development.

Mr. Philippe Scholtes said that Member states should work hand in hand for inclusive and sustainable development if they want to achieve industrial development.

“This is what UNIDO is up to and I believe we are not the only ones in the race. The African Union adopted this. And in October 2015, the UN concluded that the general assembly of industries that anyone who wants to involve in energy activities should stand out for sustainable development. It is also important to note the COP21 in Paris last year 2015 agreed to encourage countries engage in better use of energy,” he said.

Renewable energy is a boom in Africa and Uganda has invested $134 million since 2015. In a speech read by the current Makerere University Vice Chancellor elect, Prof. Banarbas Nawangwe, the former Makerere University Vice Chancellor Prof. John Ddumba-Ssentamu said that the university is ready to promote all appropriate and sustainable renewable energy and energy efficiency across East African region.

This includes the development of research in electric and solar-powered vehicles, solar water pumps for irrigation to farmers in remote off-grid countryside. Though the bus is intended for urban areas rather than inter-city use because of the restrictions on how far it can travel, according to Kiira Motor’s CEO in a statement told New Vision that by 2039 the company will be able to manufacture all the parts and assemble the vehicle in Uganda in order to cut on the pollution resulting from over dependence on gasoline vehicles.

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