Throughout 2015, in four countries across the globe, the Negawatt Challenge inspired 41 solutions around resource efficiency, supported 16 teams through a targeted boot camp, and accelerated eight startups. Additionally, the Climate CoLab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) provided a virtual platform for the Negawatt challenge, generating 23 proposals from 11 countries.
The Negawatt Challenge, which is organized by the World Bank’s Transport and ICT global practice, aims to empower tech and IT communities to be creative and innovate around urban resource efficiency issues, such as lack of sustainable supply of electricity and water, thus fostering greener growth in their cities. Negawatt does so by providing a platform to engage budding entrepreneurs, together with policymakers and other stakeholders, in identification of the most pressing city-level resource efficiency challenges; and to build capacity of the high-potential entrepreneurs to develop technically feasible and commercially viable software and hardware solutions in response to the challenges identified.
The Negawatt also fosters peer-to-peer learning, use of open government data, and cross-fertilization of knowledge across all the cities involved. Since its start in 2015, the Negawatt Challenge has supported a number of digital innovations, which actively leverage data analytics, sensors, cloud computing, mobile platforms, and location services. The most notable include those developed by STIC Labs (Tanzania), Sun Shade Energy (Ghana), e-Manager (Brazil), e-Save (Negawatt Virtual Track Winner), and Plugin Pulse (Kenya).
At the recent Smart City Expo World Congress 2015, and following a tight competition, STIC Labs from Tanzania was announced as the global winner of this year’s Negawatt Challenge.
STIC Labs is a pre-paid water metering system that can be operated in two modes: as a Point of Sale, which can either offer mobile money or coin-based payment, and as a household pre-paid meter, which offers mobile money payment. The startup entered the competition in March 2015 in Dar es Salaam working on an early concept of its solution; since then the team has developed a working and viable hardware prototype that performs consumption and revenue monitoring, as well as provides data on water consumption.
“The Negawatt is all about empowering entrepreneurs to contribute to achieving Sustainable Development Goals through resource efficiency measures,” says Ms Anna Lerner, World Bank ICT and Energy Specialist and co-Task Team Leader of the Negawatt Challenge.
ICT Innovation Specialist and co-Task Team Leader Ms Cecilia Paradi-Guilford adds: “It is high time that cities start engaging their local talent in the identification of ‘pain points’ and co-creation of solutions leveraging digital enablers to find viable solutions.”
A panel of judges for the Negawatt Challenge included representation of various organizations, including: the Energy City Frederikshavn; Four Years From Now; GiCoop; SumaCapital; AUMA and Catalonia’s Sustainable Development Advisory Council. The judges evaluated the innovations based on their value creation, relevance to the challenges, technical feasibility, financial viability, and originality.
As the Global Negawatt Challenge winner, STIC Labs said: “The support and trainings that we got throughout the Challenge program helped us learn how to create customer-based products. We are now in the process of scaling our business while also helping our society to solve problems that surround it. We plan on making our pre-paid water metering system available in all disadvantaged regions of Africa, so that water supplying can be an entrepreneurial opportunity, while increasing water efficiency and water availability, and making water projects more self-sustainable.”
There were other innovative projects that competed in the Negawatt challenge, of which a few are mentioned below:
Sun Shade Energy’s “Sunspecs” protect the home from excessive heat gain targeting the windows. The solution captures solar energy, stores it, and uses the captured energy for powering basic lighting and other green appliances. The startup received a special recognition from the Negawatt Challenge for its most original idea.
E-Manager is an online energy efficiency solution accessible from a computer, tablet or smart phone that offers monitoring of electricity demand (kW) and electricity consumption (kWh and $) in real time; targeting and warnings; forecasting of monthly consumption and cost; alerts for consumption out of standard levels; diagnostics and recommendations on solutions; and automation of remote on and off switching for appliances.
eSAVE is an electricity conservation app. It provides energy audit of buildings on to phones of users to identify where electricity is unintentionally being wasted or overused. It also offers daily tips on how to reduce their electricity consumption. eSave won the Climate CoLab Urban Energy Efficiency contest.
Plugin Pulse: Linking the energy sector using compelling data! Plugin Pulse provides analytics for engagement and insight, and is focused on utilities and independent power producers. The Plugin Pulse service senses current, analyzes the collected energy data, interacts and queries the data, and engages customers through phone and Internet.
"What’s been most impressive to me is how closely all their ideas are targeting real local needs,” said Ian Collingwood, COO and Program Director at Startupbootcamp Barcelona, and one of the mentors to the Negawatt Challenge startups. “That’s at the core of what I try to teach startups: Solve a real problem for a customer you know and understand. It’s at the root of all successful businesses. I have no doubt that these teams will go on to be exactly that: successful, sustainable businesses whose founders succeed because of their close connection to their customers."
The Negawatt Challenge emerged as a follow-up activity to analytical work performed by the World Bank’s Transport and Information and Communication Technologies Global Practice and Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP). In Ghana and Kenya it was financed by the Korea Green Growth Trust Fund (KGGTF), in Brazil by ESMAP, and in Tanzania – by the World Bank’s Country Office.