ACCRA, March 14 & 15, 2015 – 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.
“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 person’s job,” said Ms Lydia Sackey, Budget Director of Accra Metropolitan Assembly and a lead government counterpart for the Negawatt Challenge technical assistance activity in Ghana.
Ms Cecilia Paradi-Guilford, ICT Innovation Specialist and co-Task Team Leader of the Negawatt Challenge explains the remit of the competition: “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. Energy efficiency can play a great role to help save energy in these 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.”
14 teams took part in the event out of whom four teams were selected by a panel of judges into a 3-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 will enter into an acceleration program offering hands-on training, mentorship, peer-to-peer networking which will allow them to compete internationally with other winning teams from Negawatt participating cities: Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, and Rio de Janeiro.
Overall, 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: (i) energy audits; (ii) demand side management; (iii) building an energy data ecosystem; (iv) financing energy efficiency projects; (v) building insulation; (vi) efficiency of appliances.
The winning teams include Asor, Flip, Sun Shade, and WI.
Asor focuses 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 neighborhood.
Flip focuses 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 focuses 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.
"A critical piece in driving efficiencies is empowering stakeholders to access key information from all the pieces of the electrical grid. National Instruments, 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,” said Mr Rudi Ngnepi, Group Manager at National Instruments and lead contact for the Negawatt Challenge activities in Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania.
"Negawatt Weekend has exposed enormous talent in the local startup ecosystem. Though only 4 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," 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.
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.
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. NI is global Terrawatt Sponsor of the Negawatt Challenge, and is offering technical mentorship and training, access to NI’s development tools, and consultation with teams. NI aims to provide custom, integrated hardware and software solutions for the teams so they can build their own inventions in the field of energy efficiency. Similarly, the MIT Climate CoLab is providing an online virtual platform for participants and will host a “virtual track” to the competition that will be open to the global community regardless of location. To implement the Accra chapter of the competition the iSpace Foundation enlisted other local organizations such as the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), HubAccra, and others.