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Satellite Imagery Used for Electricity Consumption Forecasting in Africa For the First Time in New Service

The new service from e-GUIDE, a collaboration between The Rockefeller Foundation and four leading universities, helps utilities and system planners improve the planning and provision of electricity in Africa

November 24, 2020 | CAPE TOWN – The Electricity Consumption Prediction service for Africa has been launched today by the e-GUIDE Initiative. The service, which will be freely available, provides estimates of future electricity consumption at high spatial resolution, and combines satellite imagery with historic and big data sources. The service improves the planning and provision of electricity towards ending energy poverty, helping to direct investments and scale projects that support the economic recovery of communities devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The e-GUIDE Initiative is a collaboration between The Rockefeller Foundation, UMass Amherst, Columbia University, Carnegie Mellon University, the Rochester Institute of Technology, and Colorado School of Mines.

The service addresses the challenges faced by utilities, regulators, system planners, off-grid companies, and researchers in adequately matching supply and demand and identifying the most appropriate technology solutions for investment. By combining datasets and applying machine learning techniques, the service will create a comprehensive picture of expected demand for every region across Africa for the first time. In countries with limited historic consumption data, the service will extrapolate insights based on consumer profiles in similar environments, allowing learnings to flow across borders.

Development of the service, which has been led by Simone Fobi, a PhD student at Columbia University, and pursued in collaboration with utilities and off-grid electricity providers, will initially provide intelligence on residential consumption in Kenya with Uganda and Rwanda to follow. In the coming year, the service will be expanded to forecast the consumption of small and medium enterprises. Coverage for all of Africa is anticipated by late 2021.

The launch of e-GUIDE’s new service, which is funded by a grant from The Rockefeller Foundation, comes as Joseph Nganga joins the Foundation as the Executive Director for Power & Climate in Africa. As Executive Director, Joseph will lead efforts to scale up transformative distributed renewable electrification projects across the continent.

 “Electricity is essential for a modern economy and services including healthcare and education, and for communities’ resilience and ability to adapt to crises including Covid-19. But hundreds of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa still lack this essential tool,” said Nganga. “The impact of the pandemic, particularly on vulnerable households, should serves as a prompt for us to redouble our efforts to achieve universal electricity access in an equitable and sustainable way. The Electricity Consumption Prediction service is a transformative and vital tool that will help direct investments to solve this profound challenge.”

Jay Taneja of UMass Amherst’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and the Initiative lead said: “We must be able to make the most of every investment in electricity access if we are to quickly and sustainably end energy poverty. By making better use of data we can significantly accelerate the pace of change and move away from a one-size-fits-all approach. It is only through data that we can understand the diversity that exists within consumption and define on- and off-grid solutions that exactly meet the needs of customers, now and in the future.”

Samson Ondiek, Personal Assistant to the Managing Director & CEO of Kenya Power, said Bringing affordable and reliable power to Kenyans in a sustainable way is core to our work. By partnering closely with the e-GUIDE Initiative we have a unique opportunity to gain new insights from our data that will underpin our investment strategy going forward.”

The e-GUIDE Initiative is also releasing a whitepaper today in collaboration with the team at Village Data Analytics (VIDA). VIDA also offers a breakthrough product based on satellite imagery and machine learning. The whitepaper shows how the Electricity Consumption Prediction service is used by VIDA to identify ideal sites for the deployment of mini-grids that can provide reliable electricity access for last-mile communities.

Notes to editors:

About e-GUIDE

The Electricity Growth and Use in Developing Economies (e-GUIDE) Initiative seeks to transform the approaches used for planning and operations of electricity infrastructure in developing regions. We are constructing measurement and data analytics techniques that are scalable, transnational, and verified using real data on electricity consumption and infrastructure. We partner with electricity service companies to develop our techniques, deploy them at scale, and build capacity for data and analytics in the electricity sector. The Initiative is funded through a $3.8 million grant from The Rockefeller Foundation. Find out more:

About The Rockefeller Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation advances new frontiers of science, data, and innovation to solve global challenges related to health, food, power, and economic mobility. As a science-driven philanthropy focused on building collaborative relationships with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation seeks to inspire and foster large-scale human impact that promotes the well-being of humanity throughout the world by identifying and accelerating breakthrough solutions, ideas, and conversations.

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About Joseph Nganga

Prior to joining The Rockefeller Foundation Joseph co-founded and grew responsAbility Renewable Energy Holding into a $121M company that builds, owns, and operates renewable energy projects across Africa. Joseph also headed up the regional office in Africa for responsAbility A.G. a $3B asset manager headquartered in Switzerland that invests in energy, agriculture and financial institutions.

Joseph also founded Renewable Energy Ventures, a project development and advisory firm in Nairobi that provided advisory services in the renewable energy space and distributed lanterns. Joseph worked with the Alliance for Green Revolution in the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) and the Renewable Energy and Adaptation to Climate Technologies (REACT) window, advising, supporting and investing in clean energy companies. At Renewable Energy Ventures, Joseph co-developed the business plan and raised $15m for the Kenya Climate Innovation Center for the World Bank’s infoDev.

Joseph started out his career as an investment banker at Bank of America in Charlotte, North Carolina. He graduated with a Liberal Arts degree from Queens University of Charlotte and has attended executive education classes at Harvard Business School about governing for non-profits. Joseph also sits on the Board of Carolina for Kibera.


Media contacts:

Eric Gay

The Rockefeller Foundation
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