Negawatt weekend sparks innovative ideas to tackle Accra’s energy efficiency challenges

The World Bank’s Global Information and Communication Technologies Practice in partnership with the iSpace Foundation and National Instruments (NI), has organized a two-day Negawatt Weekend aimed at developing the local early startup ecosystem by igniting bottom-up innovation around energy efficiency.

The event, which is a mix of a startup weekend and ideathon, surfaced 14 potential solutions to Accra’s most pressing energy efficiency challenges in public, commercial, and residential buildings.

An official statement issued and copied the Ghana News Agency on Monday said 14 teams took part in the event out of which four teams were selected by a panel of judges into a three-week boot camp offering a tailored curriculum on business, design, technical and marketing aspects of product development.

At a later stage, two teams with the most viable solutions would enter into an acceleration program offering hands-on training, mentorship, peer-to-peer networking which would allow them to compete internationally with other winning teams from Negawatt participating cities: Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, and Rio de Janeiro.

The statement said the event attracted over 70 makers, hackers, coders, aspiring entrepreneurs, and energy specialists who were tasked to tackle one of the six challenges on energy efficiency in the buildings sector under the following themes: energy audits; demand side management; building an energy data ecosystem; financing energy efficiency projects; building insulation; and efficiency of appliances.

The winning teams include Asor, Flip, Sun Shade, and WI.

Asor focused on demand side management offering a hardware and software solution allowing consumers to estimate power needs of home appliances and to track in real time their electricity consumption status and that of their neighbourhood.

Flip focused on demand side management of energy by introducing an energy-saving and time-controlled switch for street lighting and commercial lighting in buildings.

Sun Shade focused on strengthening building insulation by offering an upgrade of a conventional shading system whereby it would absorb sun energy and reuse it to power lighting and, in the future, appliances.

WI focuses on strengthening building insulation by offering a turbines cool housing unit by a process known as air exchange.

The Negawatt Challenge is an international competition that aims to convene and empower communities around the world to innovate around urban energy efficiency issues. In addition to Accra in Ghana, the World Bank is organizing a Negawatt Challenge competition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Nairobi, Kenya; and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Ms Cecilia Paradi-Guilford, ICT Innovation Specialist and co-Task Team Leader of the Negawatt Challenge explaining the remit of the competition, said Accra is currently experiencing an energy crisis but this is not unique to this city; many rapidly urbanizing cities in Africa and elsewhere are experiencing a similar challenge.

She said Energy efficiency could play a great role to help save energy in those cities on a household level and beyond.

“The Negawatt Challenge links Accra to Nairobi as well as Dar es Salaam and Rio de Janeiro in the quest to address this common challenge, and aims to contribute towards energy efficient interventions by engaging local startup and technology communities as entrepreneurial problem solvers.

“As experience in other countries shows, technologists and entrepreneurs are capable of creating lean, innovative, and inclusive approaches and tools to increase urban energy efficiency for their own communities and others,” she added.

Mr Rudi Ngnepi, Group Manager at National Instruments and lead contact for the Negawatt Challenge activities in Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania said:”A critical piece in driving efficiencies is empowering stakeholders to access key information from all the pieces of the electrical grid.

He said National Instruments (NI), a global leader providing powerful and flexible solutions that accelerate productivity and drive rapid innovation, is very excited to support innovation in the energy efficiency space in Ghana.

“We have already seen tremendous practical and impactful ideas, and remain committed to supporting the winning teams through the incubation process, “he said.

Ms Alison Roadburg, Programs Manager at the iSpace Foundation, Accra-based technology and co-working hub and host of the Negawatt Challenge in Ghana, said Negawatt Weekend had exposed enormous talent in the local startup ecosystem.

“Though only four teams have been selected for the boot camp, we will be giving all teams a one-month membership to keep the momentum alive, and to continue the hard work they put forth this weekend,” she said.

Ms Lydia Sackey, Budget Director of Accra Metropolitan Assembly and a lead government counterpart for the Negawatt Challenge technical assistance activity in Ghana, said: “it’s a very interesting and educational program in a sense that it brings a number of stakeholders: private sector, public sector, and academia for us to share ideas and see that responsibility for bringing energy efficiency is not one persons job.

The Negawatt Weekend follows the March 2nd Challenge Definition Day, which convened over 40 government and non-government stakeholders to deliberate on the most pressing energy efficiency challenges and resulted in actionable input for the Negawatt Weekend participants.

The government participants included a number of decision makers and technical level specialists from Accra Metropolitan Assembly, Electricity Company of Ghana, GRIDCo, Energy Commission, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. GNA

Leave a Reply