About four million people live in the West Nile subregion in the far north-west of Uganda, which lies on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Only ten percent of this population are connected to the power grid. As a result of regular blackouts, many companies and businesses rely on generators that run on diesel fuel. At the same time, the subregion contains a considerable potential for renewable energy sources, of which hydropower is the only used. Electricity supply based off the grid and generators is expensive. The radio station Radio Pacis, based in the district capital of Arua, spent around 87,000 euros on electricity costs in 2008 alone. That was a major reason the radio station installed its own solar park in 2008. Six years later, it was connected to the grid of the West Nile Rural Electrification Company (WENRECo) and has been feeding electricity into the grid ever since.
Since its launch, the Radio Pacis solar park has served as a model for other companies and organisations when it comes to the use of renewable energy in the region. Both the electricity supplier and Radio Pacis benefit equally from the connection to the power grid. On one hand, the solar park stabilises the grid around the district capital Arua. On the other, it reduces the station’s electricity costs. Therefore, Radio Pacis aims to expand its park from 300 kWp to 450 kWp. This will enable the radio station to cover its entire electricity needs itself, as well as supplying energy to the Regional Referral Hospital and other health facilities. A secure power supply in Arua also encourages the establishment of micro-enterprises and economic activities.
Radio Pacis broadcasts its programme on three frequencies and in eight languages. Its content focuses on social issues, the environment, renewable energy, women, health, hygiene, reconciliation from conflict, and other development issues. The BBC honoured the station as the best radio station in Africa in 2007. For its commitment to renewable energy, the radio station also received the European Solar Prize in 2014. The station’s technical department with five engineers has extensive knowledge, and operates and maintains the solar park themselves.
The development of the solar park is carried out in close collaboration with GIZ. The necessary equipment will be procured via GIZ whereas Radio Pacis will oversee installation and obtain necessary legal documents and arrangements. The experienced team of solar technicians at Radio Pacis will consequently overtake the responsibility for maintenance. Radio Pacis will use the solar park to promote solar power in the region and raise awareness for sustainability.