Native American Communities at Global Energy Access Workshop

The Microgrid Systems Laboratory (founder of the Energy Sovereignty Institute) convened a Global Energy Access Innovation Workshop in Kigali, Rwanda with the Rochester Institute of Technology in August 2022. The event was an unqualified success. Hosted as part of the IEEE PowerAfrica Conference, 25 thought and practice leaders from Asia, Africa, Alaska, North American Tribal Communities, and the Caribbean Islands convened for a two-day immersive innovation process designed and facilitated by MSL. The excitement was contagious, the feedback was exceptional, and the group unanimously committed to continued collaboration, on which we have begun work.

Sherralyn Sneezer, PhD student at RIT (in association with ESI) and a member of the Navajo Nation, attended and presented an overview of North American Tribal Communities’ energy access challenges (along with presentations from the other regions represented). The workshop was designed to accelerate applied innovation in the energy access and equity domain, and to lay the foundation for a Global Energy Access Lab (GEAL) to meet the challenge of affordable, equitable, and clean energy access for 2 billion underserved people worldwide.The workshop succeeded in catalyzing this action by convening leading innovators and practitioners from across geographical regions in a structured, facilitated format, to foster synergies and catalyze cross-pollination. In particular, the event sought to position innovators in the developing world as full peers with their industrialized counterparts, and to enable knowledge transfer in all directions.

The immersive two-day workshop brought together select thought and practice leaders from all sectors to share and create novel ideas that will accelerate energy access and transitions, spanning technology, policy, finance, consumer behavior, and workforce challenges. The group explored 10 topical areas bearing on energy access, delineated a number of key action areas for innovation, and ultimately worked in teams to produce designs for actionable prototype projects. The event, which was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation through the e-GUIDE initiative, produced immediately useful networks and learnings, and also explored the development of an ongoing field of practice and collaboration. Work on that development has begun, based on a strong consensus among the Workshop participants that ongoing collaboration is called for.

Twenty-five participants attended the workshop, by invitation, selected according to the following criteria: deep domain expertise; creative problem-solving capacity; innovative practice; and exposure to the full breadth of progress across theaters and geographic regions. Regions represented included sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, Alaska and the Arctic, Native American communities, and small island nations in the Caribbean. Organizations attending included the Africa Minigrid Developers Association, the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet, EM-ONE Energy, ThirdWay Africa, Camus Energy, IFC, University of Alaska, HOMER Energy, SteamaCo, University of Puerto Rico, Cross Boundary Innovation Lab, and SparkMeter.

Core Partners

MSL Advisor Nathan Williams, Assistant Professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), and MSL President David Breecker convened the event, which MSL designed and Breecker facilitated. Williams, whose research has included data analytics applications for remote electrification in Africa, has served as a visiting instructor at Carnegie Mellon University’s campus in Rwanda.

The Core Partners are supported by an advisory committee representing leading organizations in the relevant regions, including IFC, Camus Energy, World Bank, Rockefeller Foundation, RMI, WRI, and University of Alaska Anchorage.

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