Energy Systems

The energy systems division was set up to develop energy efficient technologies that address the deficiencies. It is expected that these technologies will go a long way towards improving energy utilization in all sectors; residential, commercial, industrial and transport.

The prospective technologies currently under consideration for exploitation include solar powered systems zeolites for the construction of solid absorption cooling systems and water purification, biogas production and bottling, pilot food driers, briquette and bio-diesel fuel production and wind power generation. The energy systems division aim to have appropriate abundant and affordable energy for all Ugandans with emphasis on reliability, efficiency and sustainability of energy production and utilization.

The objectives of the energy systems division are:

  1. To undertake Research, Development, Demonstration & Development of energy systems and technologies.
  2. To develop and acquire appropriate technology and practices that ensure reliable and sustainable energy supply and utilization.
  3. Act as a bridge between academia, government, and the private sector with respect to commercialization of innovations and research results in energy.
  4. Spearhead efforts of ensuring reliable, affordable, and sustainable energy for Uganda in conjunction with the national development plan ii.


Projects Undertaken

Briquette quality enhancement

The quality of briquettes varies greatly among small scale producers in Uganda due to the different methods of production, absence of standardization, lack of technical knowledge and quality control procedures. Given the possibility of sub-standard products undermining briquette potential to tap into available markets, the division has undertaken various studies aimed at optimizing production parameters for enhanced briquette quality. Briquettes can be optimized to produce high heat intensity in cooking applications and burn for about two hours or optimized for low heat intensity in warming applications and burn for more than six hours.

These research findings are availed to briquette enterprises, community groups and interested individuals during trainings, consultancies, and exhibitions. Further research is being conducted in collaboration with Universities, briquette enterprises, and communities to address the low uptake of briquette technology.

Solar Drying Technologies

Unlike open sun drying which is slow and results into contamination of products, solar drying technology minimizes postharvest losses by increasing the rate of drying and enhancing high quality of dried products suitable for export. Various solar drying experiments have been conducted and the results are used to guide farmers and small scale enterprises during trainings, consultancies and exhibitions.

Bioethanol fuel production

Starch rich agro-residues can be converted into bioethanol which can be used as a substitute of kerosene for cooking, and blending with gasoline in petro engines. The division is currently working with Scale Biofuel ApS, a company of Denmark origin to set up a model facility of bioethanol fuel production with the focus on energy optimization to lower production cost.

Energy Efficient Cook Stoves

The rising costs of cooking fuel and limited biomass resources have led to the need to develop and promote energy efficient cook stoves. The division supports research, development, and technology transfer of improved energy efficient cook stoves. Some of the enterprises supported at UIRI include Eco stove, Uga stove, Eko jiko, to mention.

Following performance assessment of the stoves in the local market, Energy systems division has realized that most of the stoves were customized for charcoal and the few which are customized for briquettes are expensive for the ordinary people. Research is being conducted in collaboration with local artisans to develop a low cost stove suitable for briquettes.

Wind and solar technologies

To conserve the environment, we have developed clean energy systems to work most especially for the off grid rural communities. An example is the wind solar system we set up at the pilot site in Ntungamo. About 3.5 kW of power is generated from the installed wind-solar hybrid demonstration facility. Given the data collected during installation and continuous monitoring of the system, Energy Systems Division provides a suitable off-grid solution basing on location.

Biomass Gasification

Agriculture as the backbone of Uganda generates significant amounts of agro-residues which can be utilized to produce synthetic gas through gasification, and cleaned before it’s utilized to fuel an engine for electricity generation. The division supports incubation of enterprises such as Pamoja Energy Ltd which is currently powering rural communities.

Biochar production

Biomass gasification produces synthetic gas, char and tar. Given the need to optimize resources, the team seeks to utilize char as biochar for soil amendment besides energy generation using the synthetic gas. The division in collaboration with universities like Edinburgh University, Makerere University under which we conducted a study to investigate the suitability of locally available bamboo (Arundinaria alpina) and sugarcane trash (Saccharum officinarum Linn) biomass feedstock in East Africa to produce biochar for improving soil water holding capacity.

Biogas production

Biogas refers to a mixture of different gases (mainly methane) produced by anaerobic breakdown of organic matter. Potential raw materials for biogas production include agricultural waste, manure, municipal waste, plant material, sewage, green waste and food waste. Given the slow uptake of biogas technology due to limited knowledge, the division undertakes technical guidance to the community on design and maintenance of biogas digesters for proper functionality.

Biodiesel production

Global warming due to GHG emissions from fossil fuels is greatly affecting climatic conditions and environmental degradation which calls to embrace renewable energies for transport, production processes and domestic use. Biodiesel is produced through transesterification and esterification chemical reactions. This involves vegetable or animal fats and oils being reacted with short-chain alcohols (typically methanol or ethanol). The division is currently developing a concept on biodiesel production from tiger nuts in collaboration with National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI).