Scaling Off Grid: A USAID Grand Challenge for Development

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More than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa live without access to electricity. Most countries are unlikely to connect their entire populations to grid electricity for years, if not decades. As a result, many households rely on expensive, dangerous, pollution-causing kerosene, and diesel fuel for their energy needs.

Scaling Off-Grid Energy will accelerate growth in the off-grid energy market to provide 20 million households in sub-Saharan Africa with access to modern, clean, and affordable electricity.  Our vision is to spur a vibrant marketplace of enterprises that provide off-grid energy solutions that meet the needs of low-income consumers across the African continent.

Scaling Off-Grid Energy is a platform for leading donors and investors to develop Africa’s off-grid energy sector and coordinate investments to connect more households and businesses to electricity, fasterScaling Off-Grid Energy will incentivize technological innovation, fund early stage companies, and support critical elements of the off-grid ecosystem. Key activities include:

  1. Expanding Supply:We support companies that serve off-grid customers by helping them expand geographically, test new business models and tap into private and public sources of finance.
  2. Driving DemandWe build consumer demand for off-grid power systems by encouraging innovation in products and services customers want and need, including energy efficient household appliances, energy storage, and digital financial services.
  3. Strengthening the Marketplace: We expand off-grid energy solutions by promoting policy and regulatory reforms, spurring the growth of mobile payment systems, and building capacity in local markets.


To get more information about this challenge, kindly check here.




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Negawatt Nairobi Finalist to Represent Kenya at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona.

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We are pretty sure you have been following closely on the Negawatt challenge(a global competition on solutions for energy efficiency in cities) since it Kick-started in March 2015. We have come a long way from 80 participant to the Finalist team. Plugin, a startup that participated and won in the Negawatt Challenge Kenyan Chapter, will represent Kenya in Barcelona this November. The startup company that positions itself to be the Google of energy data in Africa provides a devise called the Plugin Pulse. The device is able to harness energy consumption data and provide insights and information for different energy data stake holders at a fees. They also provide households, commercial entities and huge organisations with services to help them understand and improve their energy efficiency in terms of usage from their consumption patterns.
The team will go on the Negawatt Tour, 8 days workshop in Barcelona from the 11th of November that will see them compete at a global level with winners from four other cities: Rio, Dar es Salaam and Accra. The event will culminate in the announcement of one global winner at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona Spain,

Negawatt Accelerator Nairobi Chapter, What’s Cooking?

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Team Plugin, one of the Finalist Teams in Negawatt Accelerator Nairobi

Nairobi Kenya! The startup world is a buzz and every day there is a Kenyan Startup taking the world by storm! Something has been cooking, the Negawatt Accelerator at @iBizAfrica-Strathmore University.

The Negawatt Challenge is an innovation challenge launched by the World Bank focusing on solutions for energy efficiency across four big cities in the world: Nairobi, Accra, DaresAlam and Rio.

In the Kenyan Chapter, after a successful first phase that consisted of a Design Thinking Workshop, a Hackathon and Bootcamp, two teams Plugin and Pawa Tele emerged and proceeded to the second phase, the Negawatt Accelerator at Strathmore University’s @iBizAfrica.

Quietly the two teams have been working over the last two months to build smart devices for energy efficiency as well as develop and implement business models to take these new innovation to market by storm.


Training Session with Prof. Da Silva from Strathmore Energy Research Centre

Plugin is a startup company that provides energy date profiles for various consumer households in easy to understand visualizations. The team is addressing the lack of reliable and accurate energy data for different consumer clusters in Kenya. They have develop the Plugin Pulse a device that is able to collect and send data to plugin data servers for analysis and reporting.  The team is led by Dr. Winnie Waudo, a renewable energy specialist.

Pawa Tele on the other hand is has developed the Pawa Tele smart switch that is able to provide grid energy consumers for the first time with a multiple access smart switch. The device not only enables energy consumers to automatically use the most optimal energy source at any given time, but also provides users with an affordable and gradual grid to solar power plan.

During the Accelerator program under the @iBizAfrica incubation program, Plugin and Pawa Tele have been provided with additional training and coaching on legal and IP issues, business planning and solar energy PV systems training, testing and piloting. The teams have also continued to receive mentorship support from National Instruments, the Negawatt challenge Platinum sponsor.


Mentoship and Coaching Session

To ensure the teams develop hardware innovations that meet the highest quality standards, the physicists and engineers from Strathmore University Energy Research Centre have worked closely with the team to offer technical advisory, training and mentorship to both team on renewable energy technologies.

On Friday 16th October Pawa Tele and Plugin will face the judges for an opportunity to be declared winners and flag bearers for Nairobi in the Negawatt Global Negawatt Study Tour taking place at the World Smart City Expo in November.


Anthony from Team Pawa Tele preparing to Pitch. NI Technology showing in Slide Deck.

Negawatt Challenge Nairobi Demo Day

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The Negawatt Challenge has been a great opportunity for participants to come up with great energy saving solutions. The Journey begun on Saturday 21st , where @iBizAfrica together with *iHub hosted the Negawatt Weekend challenge. The event was attended by over 70 participants who had registered to take part in the challenge and develop solutions that would solve energy problems in their community.

Four teams were shortlisted to take part in the next stage which was the Negawatt Bootcamp Series. The teams included:-

  1. Plugin – Winner
  2. Watt Saver – 1stRunners Up
  3. Angaza- 2ndRunners Up
  4. Wezesha Huduma – 3rdRunners Up

After the bootcamp series, the final stretch is the Demo Day.

What is Demo Day??

The home stretch. In this final phase, local Negawatt semi-finalists are invited to compete with their international counterparts. With one month of mentorship and entrepreneurship training under their belts, each of the teams in Nairobi: Angaza, Plugin, WattSaver and Wesesha Huduma are ready to showcase ground Breaking innovations at the Negawatt Demo Day.

What next after Demo Day?

Two top teams will be selected at the demo day to advance into the final stage of the challenge which is a three month accelerator program that will focus on taking the Innovations to market.

 All are invited to witness the latest innovation in the energy sector by registering here.

Venue : Strathmore University, Student Center- 4th Floor.

One More Chance to be Flown to Barcelona and Pitch to Mayors from all Around the World.

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Dear Negawatt Participant

Thanks again for participating in the Negawatt Weekend and sharing your amazing urban energy efficiency solutions with us. In gratitude for all of your hard work, intellectual energy, and great ideas, the Global  Negawatt Team would like to extend an additional opportunity for you to participate in our challenge competitions “virtual track” and pitch your solution at the 2015 Smart Cities Expo Congress. To do this the World Bank has partnered with the MITClimate CoLab ( to provide a virtual track for participants with the aim of creating a massively open online problem-solving platform to address urban energy efficiency. We’re looking for innovative solutions to age-old urban energy efficiency challenges and seek your talent and know-how to transform cities into more sustainable and energy efficient places.

In order to participate go on , enter your team, submit your proposal today, refine your solutions and  help us “flip the switch on urban energy efficiency.” An expert judging panel will review the proposals, provide feedback, and identify a winning team  that will be flown to Barcelona to pitch their ideas to mayors from all around the world at the Smart City Expo Congress. The Climate CoLab Judges’ Choice and Popular Choice  Winners will also receive a special invitation to attend selected sessions at MIT’s SOLVE conference and run the chance to win the Climate CoLab $ 10,000 Grand Prize.

Entries are due June 13th.

We hope to see you on and in Barcelona!

Good luck,

The Negawatt Challenge Team!

Kindly note that, this is open only to those who took part in the Negawatt challenge from day one(including those who did not get shortlisted for the Bootcamp).

Negawatt Challenge Nairobi Bootcamp to Kick-off on April 24th 2015

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Starting April 24th to May 22nd @iBizAfrica Strathmore University will host the Negawatt Bootcamp. This is the semi-final stage of Negawatt Challenge, a global innovation challenge focusing on innovative solutions for energy efficiency challenges in the city.
The challenge is at the semi final stage after four teams advanced from the Negawatt Weekend, a hackthon that sparked innovation in Nairobi with over 80 participants brainstormed over possible energy efficiency solutions for Nairobi. The four teams included:
Plugin: Improve energy consumption patterns by collecting data on user’s electricity consumption, which is then relayed to a mobile app that analyzes usage patterns. Problem statement: Lack of personalized energy audit to guide users on tailored energy savings.
Angaza (Kiswahili for “illuminate”): Provide a hardware solution that allows usage of solar energy in small bits by many users, instead of provision of a bulk and costly solution to a single user. The device also manages and monitors users’ energy consumption. Problem statement: Existing solar systems are expensive for low-income urban dwellers.
Watt Saver: Reduce power consumption by eliminating standby energy losses in fully charged plugged-in gadgets that are not in use at a particular time. These gadgets include phones, cameras, laptops, power banks, Bluetooth devices, and tablets. Problem statement: Energy inefficiencies leading to loss of power through standby energy appliances resulting to high power losses.
Wezesha Huduma (Swahili for “enabling service”): Provide biogas and solar energy to slum dwellers at reduced cost by incorporating affordable and efficient technologies that facilitate production, management and distribution of biogas and solar energy. Problem statement: Lack of affordable alternative sources of energy.
The four teams will receive targeted business, technical, marketing, and communications training for an initial period of four weeks and then continue to strengthen the energy startup community through a series of engagements. There will be a final demo where two top winning teams will be selected for further support to commercialize their solutions and scale them, and the overall winning team will attend an all expenses paid for trip to Barcelona for the World Smart City Expo in November.

Negawatt Weekend Challenge:The Weekend that was and What Next..

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On Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd March, @iBizAfrica together with *iHub hosted the Negawatt Weekend challenge. The event was attended by over 70 participants who had registered to take part in the challenge and develop solutions that would solve energy problems in their community. The participants then divided themselves into 13 teams and worked tirelessly to come up with the best solution that would make them proceed to the next step in the Negawatt challenge.

The challenge allowed the participants to code through the night as they had to finish up the prototypes by Sunday 2pm (EAT) and present them to the panel of judges. Throughout the process, the participants were guided by various coaches who advised and guided them on the best way they would develop practical solutions.

At the end of the challenge, the 13 teams presented their prototypes and were then shortlisted to 6 teams who later presented their solutions again to the judges. It was from this that the final winners of the challenge were announced:-

  1. PlugIin – Winner
  2. Watt Saver – 1st Runners Up
  3. Angaza- 2nd Runners Up
  4. Wezesha Huduma – 3rd Runners Up

 What Next after the weekend challenge??

Accelerate: Negawatt Bootcamp Series

No project is ever fully ready after a single weekend of prototyping. To give each of the semi-finalists the best possible chance to give their ideas legs, the winners of the Negawatt Weekend Challenge go through an intense three week Bootcamp curriculum that includes training and coaching, both on-site and online. The Bootcamp will take place @IbizAfrica and we shall provide maximum support in terms of resources to the finalist so that their prototypes are fully developed to great solutions. The program features trainers and mentors handpicked from Nairobi and the international tech scene. The teams will then be flown to Barcelona’s Smart City Expo Congress for D-Day (Demo Day, that is) to compete against the other city winners from Accra, Rio de Janeiro, and Dar es Salaam as well as online competition winners from the Climate CoLab of MIT. The Negawatt Weekend winners will represent Nairobi as they pitch to mayors from all across the world in this finale.


We want to thank all those who took their time to come for the challenge and work overnight to develop their prototypes. Your efforts are indeed very much appreciated. We are also grateful for our coaches who took time to guide the participants. To our judges who helped us in crowning the best teams, Asante sana.

To our sponsors and partnersThe World bank, The Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), Korea Green Growth Partnership  ,National Instrument, Climate CoLab and Amazonthank you so much for coming up with the challenge and for sponsoring all the activities.

  For more details on the Negawatt challenge, kindly access it here.