Renewable Energy

Team SoULS Wins $100,000 Grand Prize in IEEE’s Empower A Billion Lives Global Competition

Twenty-three teams from around the world have been competing in IEEE Power Electronics Empower a Billion Lives (EBL), a global competition that is crowd-sourcing the deployment of clean, sustainable and innovative solutions to one of the biggest challenges facing us today – extreme energy poverty for 3 billion people, including 1.1 billion who live off-grid, often with income levels of less than $2 per day. Starting with over 450 teams from 70 countries, after five regional competitions in China, India, South Africa, Spain and the US, 23 teams from around the world came to Baltimore to compete in the EBL global finals.

The $100,000 grand prize was won by Team SoULS from the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai, India. Other winning teams shared $115,000 in additional prizes including Entrepreneurs du Monde and Okra from Cambodia, SolarWorx from Germany, Havenhill Synergy from Nigeria, and Reeddi from Canada/Nigeria as the winning student team. Additional prizes were won by X-Power from Rwanda, Simusolar from Tanzania and Connex Solar from Scotland.

Solutions proposed by the teams spanned areas of technology, social impact, business models and scalability. The SoULS team empowered women as manufacturers and entrepreneurs in energy access, providing wealth creation within their communities, and helping millions of school children and hundreds of communities enjoy the benefits of clean solar lighting and energy.

Other winners (Okra, SolarWorx and Connex Solar) brought the sharing economy to energy access, demonstrating peer-to-peer ‘pay-go’ DC nanogrids. Other teams worked to perfect more traditional AC, DC and hybrid minigrids (Havenhill and X-Power), to provide solar pumping for agriculture (Simusolar), and to create advanced energy ‘bricks’ for off-grid customers (Reeddi).

See the solutions of all the teams competing in the Global Final.

The winning teams presented their solutions at the IEEE Energy Access Workshop (EAW) in Baltimore, to attendees including leaders from global institutions committed to furthering energy access, and to developing and deploying advanced technology in energy. IEEE EAW is a workshop dedicated to bringing together the Energy Access Community that is rising out of the efforts of initiatives like EBL.

The EBL competition and EAW workshop were conceptualized and organized by the IEEE Power Electronics Society and its volunteers and staff, with strong support from regional volunteers and sponsors. For the EBL Global Final, sponsors include, Kehua Technologies, On Semiconductors, Southern Company, Vicor, Sungrow Technology, Texas Instruments, and EBL partners – The Center for Distributed Energy at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the IEEE Foundation.

EBL Global Chair, Dr. Deepak Divan said that “the teams have shown innovative, sustainable and viable approaches to tackle energy access – showing how access to electricity can be liberating for families and communities, bringing about digital and financial inclusion, and improving their livelihood”.

Further, IEEE Power Electronics President Frede Blaabjerg stated, “many of these solutions are addressing critical humanitarian challenges that require an integrated approach to problem solving including technology, business and social impact. EBL teams have shown this new brand of sustainable entrepreneurship can address systemic energy poverty”.

The next round of IEEE PELS Empower a Billion Lives will begin in 2021.

IEEE Empower a Billion Lives
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