Universal Energy Facility launches programme to help bring clean, reliable electricity access to businesses


Initial financing wave focused on catalysing economic growth in Nigeria; expansion to additional Sub-Saharan Africa countries to happen by 2023.

The Universal Energy Facility, a results-based finance facility managed by Sustainable Energy for All, has launched an innovative programme to scale up electricity access to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and households in Nigeria, with additional countries to follow later this year.

The Stand-Alone Solar for Productive Use programme will offer grants as an incentive to renewable energy companies to electrify SMEs engaged in “productive uses,” such as agriculture, industry and other commercial activities. Grants will be provided to solar companies once they establish connections, so they are results-based.

The programme’s focus on enabling stand-alone solar energy projects will ensure that businesses get the electricity they need to grow their operations, while relying on a clean energy source. It will therefore help establish new electricity connections and displace polluting fuel generators currently used by many businesses as their main source of electricity.

“This new phase of the Universal Energy Facility (UEF) will provide much-needed grant funding to solar companies working to electrify small businesses across Sub-Saharan Africa. Results-based finance from the UEF will help renewables companies scale up their efforts in delivering the reliable and affordable power needed for economic growth,” said Damilola Ogunbiyi, CEO and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All and Co-Chair of UN-Energy.

Speaking at the launch of Nigeria’s Energy Transition Plan on 24 August, HE Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, Vice President of Nigeria, said “The Universal Energy Facility will provide grant payments to enable solar companies to expand their operations to small- and medium-sized enterprises across Nigeria, while crowding in additional private capital. Projects that are sponsored by the Universal Energy Facility will help grow businesses and create jobs, making them key contributors to our Energy Transition Plan.”

The programme was designed to support the growth of business models for electrification - this includes the energy-as-a-service or lease-to-own models - that address the challenge faced by SMEs of making full upfront payments to purchase solar systems. This challenge has limited the level of access to clean and reliable electricity for a majority of SMEs.

By providing grant payments for renewable energy companies to develop projects, the programme also helps de-risk these projects, which will help companies attract additional finance.

Following the launch of the programme in Nigeria, where pre-application registration for eligible companies opened on 24 August, the Universal Energy Facility plans to establish the same programme in two additional countries in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2023.

More information on the Stand-Alone Solar for Productive Use programme, including eligibility and application requirements for the Nigeria component, are available here.