ACCRA CHALLENGE DEFINITION DAY: NEGAWATT KICKS OFF IN GHANA

The Negawatt Challenge is off to a terrific start in Accra with over 40 energy and technology stakeholders participating in the March 2nd Challenge Definition Day hosted by the iSpace Foundation, a co-working and technology hub and lead competition organizer in Ghana. The themes identified during the Challenge Definition Day will be used during the Negawatt Weekend where teams of innovators and entrepreneurs will find innovative solutions to these identified urban efficiency challenges. The Negawatt Weekend is a two-day ideathon, open to innovators, techies, entrepreneurs, makers, energy experts, or anyone interested in innovating around local energy issues. Registration is still open before the Negawatt Weekend kicks off tomorrow. Sign up at Eventbrite: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/negawatt-weekend-accra-tickets-16019747496

Ing. Godfred Mensah, Manager of System Planning Section at Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), is discussing demand side management of energy. Photo credit: Zhenia Viatchaninova

Ing. Godfred Mensah, Manager of System Planning Section at Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), is discussing demand side management of energy. Photo credit: Zhenia Viatchaninova

Participants at the Building Insulation Theme Table probably had the most heated discussions. Photo credit: Zhenia Viatchaninova

Participants at the Building Insulation Theme Table probably had the most heated discussions. Photo credit: Zhenia Viatchaninova

Experts at the Challenge Definition Day included government representatives from Accra Metropolitan Assembly, Energy Commission, Electricity Company of Ghana, GRIDCo, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. Nongovernmental attendees included representatives from industry associations (Wireless Application Service Providers Association of Ghana, Ghana Green Building Council); private sector (Solar Light Africa, GrowthMosaic, etc.); donor community (GIZ, UNDP, Making All Voices Count); academia (Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and Ashesi University); and many others.

The event started with participants forming six teams to unwrap specific themes under energy efficiency, including:

  • demand-side management of energy
  • energy audits
  • building insulation
  • financing of energy efficiency projects
  • building energy data ecosystem
  • efficiency of appliances

The facilitating team from WDS, Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), iSpace, and National Instruments (Global Terawatt Sponsor of the Negawatt Challenge) guided the participants through the workshop process which started with the identification of all of the stakeholders for each theme, as well as exploring which types of data might exist around these themes. As the morning progressed, participants actively applied their know-how and enthusiasm to develop the challenges. Through a user journey mapping technique, teams created storyboards of specific stakeholders’ experiences that identified so-called pain points, ie. real or perceived problems. This allowed for the development and refinement of more specific challenge statements. By the end of the day, each team presented at least one challenge statement along with information on useful data, potential solutions, and suggested next steps.

Participants of Energy Efficiency Theme Table are engaged in the stakeholder mapping journey exercise. Photo credit: Zhenia Viatchaninova

Participants of Energy Efficiency Theme Table are engaged in the stakeholder mapping journey exercise. Photo credit: Zhenia Viatchaninova

The result is a number of challenges which, if solved, have a high potential to impact energy efficiency in Accra. These challenges will be taken on by teams at the Negawatt Weekend and their ideas will be subsequently judged by a panel of experts. The winning teams will receive intensive training and mentorship through a 3-week boot camp that allows participants to pursue their ideas further.

We can’t wait to see what might come out of these challenges! Solutions to similar challenges included the Nest smart thermostat and the Lumkani fire detector. And this is why we are now looking forward with impatience to seeing how Ghanaian innovators will apply their talent to improve energy efficiency in their city.

Emily Daher, one of MEST facilitators, took notes at the Efficiency of Appliances Theme Table

Emily Daher, one of MEST facilitators, took notes at the Efficiency of Appliances Theme Table

NI's representative Rudi Ngnepi was one of the facilitators at the Building Insulation Theme Table

NI's representative Rudi Ngnepi was one of the facilitators at the Building Insulation Theme Table

Key partners to the Negawatt Challenge are:

NI is a global Terawatt Sponsor of the Negawatt Challenge in all participating cities, and is offering technical mentorship and training, access to NI's development tools, and consultation with teams. Since 1976, NI has made it possible for engineers and scientists to solve the world’s greatest engineering challenges with powerful, flexible technology solutions that accelerate productivity, innovation, and drive rapid discovery. Customers from a wide variety of industries - from healthcare to automotive and from consumer electronics to particle physics - use NI’s integrated hardware and software platform to improve the world we live in.

The Climate CoLab provides a virtual track for participants with the aim of creating a massively open online problem-solving platform to address urban energy efficiency. The Climate CoLab is a project of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Center for Collective Intelligence. Its goal is to harness the collective intelligence of thousands of people from all around the world to address global climate change. It does so by providing a crowdsourcing platform where citizens work with experts and each other to create, analyze, and select detailed proposals for what to do about climate change.

MEST is a partner of the Negawatt Challenge in Accra. MEST is a not-for-profit established in 2008 to provide training, investment and incubation to aspiring high technology entrepreneurs in Africa and with bridges to Silicon Valley. Since its inception, MEST has invested $15 million in supporting West African entrepreneurs and sponsored 200+ entrepreneurs that have graduated from the training program. MEST has invested in over 20 startup companies that emerge from the training program, with a portfolio ranging from Health IT to digital media, 2 of which were acquired by global technology firms in the last year. MEST has been recognized on Fast Company's 2015 list of "10 Most Innovative Companies in Africa" and regarded as “one of the largest private investments in Ghanaian economic development” by DFID.