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Grid Powered Refrigeration for Productive Use – New study


Energy 4 Impact has published a new study of 172 Micro-enterprises in Uganda to understand the case for off-grid appliances.

Background: Access to refrigeration can be transformative. For domestic use, refrigeration may save labour, preserves food, and allows families access to a wider variety of produce.  Refrigeration may also be used as the basis for small scale enterprise, whether it’s selling cold drinks or preserving crops, meat or dairy. Refrigeration is a sought-after technologies for low-income households and businesses using solar home systems, but commonly available solutions are usually too expensive, too difficult to maintain, or inappropriate. Beyond evidence of demand for refrigeration from solar home system companies, there is limited research or industry understanding of the nature of this demand, the real world performance and impacts for potential users of solar based refrigeration.

The 2016-17 Global LEAP Awards Off-Grid Refrigerator Competition includes an innovation prize for Appropriate Design and User Experience. This prize aims to discover and award the real world performance and impact of the products for low income users. To determine this award Energy 4 Impact is running a “first of its type” field test of all identified finalists in rural Uganda.

The use of off-grid refrigeration is not yet abundant in rural Uganda, so to get an indicative baseline and understand the context around use of refrigeration by low-income households and businesses, Energy 4 Impact carried out a study of 172  small scale, grid connected businesses that heavily rely on refrigeration. These businesses, primarily small retail shop based in rural Uganda, are the same types of enterprises that would be the target users of off grid refrigerators. 

Result: The survey revealed issues around ownership, power availability and highly inefficient product as well as inappropriate product design. These issues coupled with the limited number and variety of appliances available to users result in high operational costs and ultimately the erosion of profit margins.

Our findings reinforce the efforts of initiatives like Global LEAP to move the sector in the direction of energy efficient, appropriately designed products that represent real value for money, appliances that could benefit both off and on grid low-income household and businesses. Energy 4 Impact will use the learnings from this study to implement the field test and discover the most innovative products and a winner of the Appropriate Design and User Experience Innovation Prize.

For more information on the 2016-17 Global LEAP Awards Off-Grid Refrigerator Competition see

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  • Global LEAP’s Off-Grid Refrigerator Competition and Innovation Prize Winners announced