Skip to Content
Author's profile photo Christine Susanne Mueller

7 Weeks to Davos: Energy is the Engine

17 weeks to Davos. 17 global goals to achieve a sustainable future. 17 blog posts exploring the UN’s vision for humankind. Here is number 7.

Global Goal #7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all; increase share of renewable energy; double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency

Population growth and economic development – collectively and individually – are boosting the demand for safe and clean electricity globally. Opportunities for utilities companies are abundant, as are the challenges. Decarbonization, deregulation, decentralization, and public pressure – along with new market entrants with revolutionizing business models, such as Google and Tesla – are disrupting the entire industry. This is all driving the energy industry to embrace new technologies and innovate.

Smart access for rural households

More than 1.3 billion people lack access to modern electricity services. In Africa, 67% of the population falls into this category, while in India it is 66%. Yet, reliable access to sustainable energy can be “an engine for poverty reduction, social progress, equity, enhanced resilience, economic growth, and environmental sustainability,” according to the United Nations Development Programme.

While the high cost of grid infrastructure extension is a barrier to electricity access, especially for rural households, Mobisol GmbH, a company that provides prepaid energy solutions, has found a smart way around. The company combines solar power with micro-financing and a mobile payment system to offer clean, affordable, and fossil-free energy for low-income households in off-grid areas. The solar home systems using Mobisol services are connected to a battery. Any excess electricity produced can be used to run businesses, such as mobile phone charging services and barbershops, which generate extra income and benefit the local economy.

Currently, Mobisol has electrified over 30,000 households in Rwanda and Tanzania – resulting in the installation of three megawatts (MW) of solar capacity, with up to 50% savings for the households and 13.900 tons CO2 emissions abatement. As a result of this initiative, approximately 90,000 children can safely study at night (without breathing in dangerous kerosene fumes); 750 trainees received education at the Mobisol Academy; and over 30,000 people received end-user training. This effort also created over 500 jobs and more than 10,000 entrepreneurs used solar energy to create incremental income.

Building a regional powerhouse

Ethiopia, once iconic for images of drought and starvation, is on its way to being able to produce enough electricity to fuel its own growth. It may even rise to become Africa’s – and one of the globe’s – greatest power providers. The country is estimated to sit on a potential 45,000 MW of hydroelectric power alone and that does not include its mostly unexploited geothermal sources. Ethiopia currently generates around 2,300 MW, but aims to add over 12,000 MW more by 2020. Based on numerous power projects outlined in its Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP), Ethiopia has a grand ambition to reach 37,000 MW of generation capacity by 2037, making the country a prime exporter of electricity. The success of this vision will depend on effectively managing the entire power system and staying flexible for future development.

Less in – more out?

During infrastructure build-out, emerging economies such as Ethiopia can be early movers in applying a systems approach to the roll-out of advanced low-carbon technologies. In highly developed and more stable environments, the transition towards renewable and decentralized power generation puts incumbent generators under high levels of economic stress. That’s where new smart meter and grid technology play a key role in matching energy supply from variable fossil and renewable resources and smart consumption while ensuring stable and reliable energy supply.

Imagine in off-peak hours, when there is a surplus of energy in the grid. You can run your laundry, charge your electrical vehicle, or even put your photovoltaics energy generation back into the grid. Flexible energy pricing, plus the available of smart technology, makes these kinds of opportunities very attractive to consumers. In fact, 80% of European consumers will be equipped with smart meters by 2020, according to a European Commission directive. It is not surprising that the global electric smart meter installation figure is set to hit almost 800 million by 2020, with China leading the way.

These meters will empower consumers through transparency on their real energy usage, enabling them to monitor their consumption against benchmarks. Smart devices connected via mobile apps will reduce their energy consumption and help them save money.

Utilities will also benefit from real-time energy demands. They will be able to forecast and balance load, optimize demand response, and secure grid stability. This differentiating kind of service will increase customer loyalty.

SAP is doing its part…

At SAP, our vision and purpose is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. The company shifted to 100% renewable energy in all of our data centers and facilities in 2014, as compared with 43% in 2013. This is one of our most significant actions to date to make our operations more sustainable.

But our impact on energy conservation and sustainability is even bigger when you consider the efforts of customers like these here.

  • Our industry-specific utility solutions are supporting Ethiopia on its way to grow to a regional powerhouse. They are helping to reduce the legacy silos that kept different operations isolated from each other and automating, simplifying, and harmonizing the countless operations across the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation.
  • Utility companies like Centrica use our smart meter solutions to closely engage with their customers for conscious energy usage.
  • Alliander, a large Dutch power distribution company, uses the SAP HANA platform to analyze 1.5 billion grid sensor measurements and forecast the required asset substitutions or maintenance at continuously reduced time cycles.

This blog was originally published by Will Ritzrau and myself in the Digitalist here. To learn more about the 17 Global Goals and how you can help make the world a better place, follow the 17 Weeks to Davos blog series.


[NL1]I wasn’t clear on what you meant – is this correct?


[RW2]Yes, exactly.

Assigned Tags

      Be the first to leave a comment
      You must be Logged on to comment or reply to a post.