Leveraging Blockchain and Renewables to energize rural Africa
Water taps, electric lights, stoves, refrigerators are all everyday conveniences for most of us. Normally, we don’t even think about using them.
But this is not how is it for people lacking access to electricity. In Ndiob, a small village in Senegal, the population of around 3,000 have no transmission towers or lines. Farmers can’t refrigerate their produce, and houses turn dark after sunset. If at all, electricity is produced by diesel-powered generators, which makes it wasteful, expensive, and unreliable.
This means most villagers can’t use electric pumps to raise groundwater for essential crops, grain must be ground by hand, and health and education services along with business opportunities can’t flourish. It’s not only Ndiob . Around 600 million people across sub-Saharan Africa have no access to electricity – a fact that inspired a group of Siemens Energy employees to make a change.
With backing from Siemens Energy Ventures, the entrepreneurial heart of Siemens Energy, a group of Siemens Energy employees founded connect2evolve, a self-organized and cross functional team. The team sought to implement a solution that would bridge people who want to create impact with those in need of access to clean, reliable and affordable electricity. In collaboration with Africa GreenTec AG and their Solartainer®, connect2evolve is bringing clean solar energy to Ndiob.
“Access to energy is a fundamental building block for society to progress. Reliable and affordable access to clean electricity helps to alleviate poverty, facilitates economic growth, and improves living standards. Energizing rural, remote, and off-grid societies requires innovative solutions to tackle the challenges of financing and lack of infrastructure. By working with partners, such as Africa GreenTec, and tapping into our creativity to use new and pioneering technologies like blockchain, we are making real and positive changes to people’s lives.”Nadja Haakansson. Managing Director, Africa.
Africa GreenTec has already electrified over 20 remote villages using this “solar power in a box” solution, which has battery storage for off-peak hours and a microgrid as well as smart meters to manage billing. As many as 3,000 people in the village could benefit from a “Solartainer®.”
With affordable power, local farmers in this Senegalese village can store their produce for longer. Shops and homes can reduce food spoilage, reduce wastage. Medical facilities can safely store life-saving medicines. Pupils can do their homework after sun sets. Villagers are enabled to start businesses. The internet is made accessible.
At Siemens Energy, we believe that access to electricity is the fundament of social economic development. Our goal is to energize society.
Donations were collected by using a blockchain based platform. The distributed ledger technology makes funding democratic, secure, and transparent. Because all transactions are recorded and traceable, funds are less vulnerable to error or corruption.
Donors will get impact token that represents the amount of green electricity that was produced thanks to their donation. The token also represents CO2 emission avoidance or partially CO2 savings, where a diesel generator could be replaced.
Similar blockchain fundraising efforts that use tokens programmed to ensure compliance with regulatory criteria, could potentially unlock innovative funding solutions for larger power investment projects in the future. Communities themselves could invest in local electrification projects, with less risk and cost – as could innovative investors.
The connect2evolve team has been working on this project for several years and couldn’t be prouder to see the solar container produce electricity. It is a small and a big step at the same time. It might be a small spark that provides Ndiob, their farms, and households with clean energy. But we are working to grow this spark into a surge and improve access to electricity everywhere.
There are still many people living without energy often far from the main grid. At the same time there are a variety of technical solutions for decentralized energy generation. Unfortunately, the local project developers that can set up such solutions often miss out on the financing. Traditional financing institutions doesn’t see the potential in many small and midsize projects. We see an incredible potential to improve peoples’ lives.
We will continue to connect project developers looking for financing with investors looking for investments that matter.
Our vision is to spark this to an illuminated light ray to bring power to 50 million people by 2040. This is what “we energize society” means to us in the “connect2evolve” team.
All this, the pilot project in Senegal as well as the idea creation and the investigation into the connect2evolve idea wouldn’t be possible without support. We would like to thank you, the Siemens Energy Venture team, with all the different innovation initiatives in which we could participate over the last years. There were and are colleagues and external partners who support us with advice and encourage us to continue. And we would like to thank Africa GreenTec help e.V. and Torsten Schreiber for providing a project were we could test our idea in reality. And of course, thank you to all people giving money for the villager in Ndiob. For all the people that made donations, you will see your direct impact in your dashboard now!