Satellite imagery helps improve electricity planning in Africa

power lines 532720 640The new e-GUIDE service, a collaboration between the Rockefeller Foundation and four leading universities, helps utilities and system planners improve the planning and supply of electricity in Africa

The e-GUIDE initiative launched the Electricity Consumption Prediction Service for Africa. The service, which will be freely available, provides estimates of future electricity consumption at high spatial resolution and combines satellite imagery with historical and large data sources.

The service improves the planning and supply of electricity to end energy poverty, helps direct investment and scale up projects that support the economic recovery of communities devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The e-GUIDE initiative is a collaboration between The Rockefeller Foundation, UMass Amherst, Columbia University, Carnegie Mellon University, the Rochester Institute of Technology, and Colorado School of Mines.

The service addresses the challenges faced by utilities, regulators, system planners, off-grid companies and researchers in terms of matching supply and demand and identifying the most appropriate investment technology solutions. By combining datasets and applying machine learning techniques, the service will, for the first time create a comprehensive picture of the expected demand for each region across Africa.

In countries with limited historical consumption data, the service will extrapolate insights based on consumer profiles in similar environments, allowing learnings to flow across borders.

The development of the service, led by Simone Fobi, PhD student at Columbia University, and pursued in collaboration with utilities and off-grid electricity providers, will initially provide intelligence on residential consumption in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. The service will be expanded in the coming year to forecast the consumption of small and medium-sized enterprises. Coverage for all of Africa is expected by the end of 2021.

The launch of the e-GUIDE service, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, comes as Joseph Nganga joins the Foundation as executive director for Power & Climate in Africa. As the executive director, Joseph will lead efforts to expand transformative distributed renewable electrification projects across the continent.

Electricity is essential for a modern economy and services including healthcare and education, and for communities’ resilience and ability to adapt to crises including COVID-19. But hundreds of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa still lack this essential tool,” said Nganga. “The impact of the pandemic, particularly on vulnerable households, should serves as a prompt for us to redouble our efforts to achieve universal electricity access in an equitable and sustainable way. The Electricity Consumption Prediction service is a transformative and vital tool that will help direct investments to solve this profound challenge.”

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