Leveraging private investment to expand renewable power generation: Evidence on financial additionality and productivity gains from Uganda

Effectively mitigating climate change entails a quick upscaling and redirection of electricity infrastructure investment towards clean power. Given that the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions increases until 2050 will come from low- and middle-income countries, finding cost-effective ways to mitigate climate change while meeting development targets is essential. However, recent research has shown some of the limitations of broad financing mechanisms, such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and existing carbon markets. This has resulted in a growing interest in designing novel investment support schemes, such as modifications of feed-in tariffs (FiTs) that may be more cost effective and better targeted towards particular outcomes when compared to traditional deployment subsidies or broad financing mechanisms. We evaluate the design and outcomes of one such novel support schemes: the GET FiT (Global Energy Transfer Feed-in Tariff) investment support scheme in Uganda, which has attracted ~ 453 million USD in private sector investment for 17 small-scale renewable energy projects (solar, hydro, bagasse) in only three years. Using financial modelling on detailed project-level data, we find that most projects were additional and would therefore not have been built without the subsidy. In addition, using firm-level panel data, we show that power outages hamper manufacturing performance in Uganda. In the absence of reliable outage-data for the entire Ugandan territory, we use nightlight variations to proxy changes in outages. We show that outages have declined substantially since the introduction of GET FiT. Yet, our analysis also demonstrates that programmes to incentivise additional renewable generation in developing countries funded internationally or domestically should liaise closely with grid authorities to ensure that supply does not outstrip demand.

Written by Benedict Probst, Lotte Westermann, Laura Díaz Anadón and Andreas Kontoleon

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