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Exclusive interview with Jay Taneja, e-GUIDE Initiative Project Lead at the Rockefeller Foundation. He is part of a session on sustainable business models for utilities and IPPs at African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa on 25 November.

Let’s start with some background on the Rockefeller Foundation
In brief, The Rockefeller Foundation advances new frontiers of science, data, and innovation to solve global challenges related to health, food, power, and economic mobility. Its philanthropy is science-driven and focuses on building collaborative relationships with partners and grantees. The e-GUIDE Initiative, which stands for Electricity Growth and Use in Developing Economies, is an excellent example of how The Rockefeller Foundation creates partnerships to identify and accelerate breakthrough solutions that improve the wellbeing of humanity.

Tell us more about specifically the work that you do in the energy sector?
The driver behind The Rockefeller Foundation’s work in the energy sector is to dramatically accelerate the pace of electrification and decrease the cost by leveraging the full potential that decentralized renewable energy offers to the world’s poorest populations.

Just last month, The Rockefeller Foundation committed $1 billion over the next three years to catalyse a more inclusive, green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding will build on several long-standing efforts to end energy poverty of which the e-GUIDE Initiative is one.

What is the history and goal behind e-GUIDE?
The e-GUIDE Initiative, which is a partnership between UMass Amherst, Columbia University, Carnegie Mellon University, the Rochester Institute of Technology and Colorado School of Mines, was launched in December 2018 and is backed by a $3.8 million grant from The Rockefeller Foundation.

Its overarching goal is to transform the approaches used for planning and operations of electricity infrastructure in developing regions to better direct investments and scale projects that can end energy poverty. The work has become particularly important as we seek ways to support the economic recovery of communities that have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the first milestones of the project is the tool that we are launching here at African Utility Week – the Electricity Consumption Prediction service. Developed in conjunction with utilities and off-grid electricity providers, the service provides high-resolution estimates of future electricity consumption created by combining satellite imagery with historic and big data sources to improve the planning and provision of electricity.

Who in the energy sector is this information targeted at?
The Electricity Consumption Prediction service is freely available for anyone to use. However, we expect that it will be of most interest to utilities, regulators, system planners, off-grid companies, and researchers who are seeking to forecast electricity consumption levels, particularly in areas that are either unserved or underserved by electricity.

The service will initially provide intelligence on residential consumption in Kenya with Uganda and Rwanda to follow. In the coming year, the service will also be expanded to forecast the consumption of small and medium enterprises. Coverage for all of Africa is anticipated by late 2021.

What are some of the main takeaways about the prediction of consumption of electricity on the continent?
One of the most striking takeaways is that even in the most rural areas we see diversity in consumption. Being able to map that diversity allows utilities and off-grid companies to better understand what solution will best meet the needs of those customers.

For example, being able to identify “anchor” customers that have higher levels of electricity consumption and mapping them in relation to areas of lower demand gives utilities and electricity-providing businesses a viable way to reach more customers.

Another takeaway is how we begin to increase demand. In East Africa, several countries including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Rwanda want to export electricity to their neighbours having made the transition from a deficit of electricity to having an excess.

The Electricity Consumption Prediction service will allow utilities and off-grid companies alike to identify where opportunities exist to stimulate consumption. The right stimulation can grow economies and communities to improve lives and livelihoods.

You are part of a discussion during Digital African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa on 25 November, what will be your message at the event?
The announcement of the service, which we are presenting on at the conference this week, is the first major milestone in what we hope to be a transformative project for utilities and off-grid companies across Africa.

The service is free to use and we strongly encourage any user that will benefit from the service’s insights, to get in touch. It is through transformative approaches such as these that we can drive a more inclusive, sustainable electricity future for the African continent.

Digital Energy Festival
The following sessions are still available to watch on demand as part of the Digital Energy Festival for Africa:

   – African Utility Week & POWERGEN Africa sessions, (now Enlit Africa) click here – FREE access
   – ESI Africa sessions, click here – FREE access
   – Oil & Gas Council sessionsclick here

The Digital Energy Festival for Africa in 2020 was hosted jointly by four of Clarion Events’ leading energy brands Africa Energy ForumAfrican Utility Week & POWERGEN Africa (now Enlit Africa) and the Oil & Gas Council’s Africa Assembly and the leading energy journal ESI Africa providing six weeks of compelling content.