AFD Digital Energy Challenge for Utilities 2021 (Win a grant of €100K)

Agence Française de Développement invites applications for the AFD Digital Energy Challenge for Utilities within Africa in 2021.

The Digital Energy Facility is launching the Digital Energy Challenge, which will run for four years with an annual Call for Projects. The objective of the Challenge is to support the development of innovative solutions for energy access, the integration of renewable energy and utility performance improvement.

The digital revolution is key to tackling energy access issues in developing countries. In Africa alone, 600 million people, 2 out of 3 people in sub-Saharan Africa, do not have access to electricity. Innovative technologies and new business models are making significant progress in energy access with on-grid and off-grid solutions in urban and rural areas.

Contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy, the AFD implemented the Digital Energy Facility, a programme co-financed by the European Union to support the digitization and modernization of the energy sector.

Worth of Award

For every annual Call for Projects, 2-3 winning utility partnerships will each benefit from:

  • A grant of €100K-€700K to support costs for equipment, software, products and services provided by the innovative technology/service provider, and training.
  • Technical assistance for project management assistance, strategic and technical expertise.

In addition, both utility partnership and start-up winners can take advantage of:

  • A joint boot camp run by cross-sectorial experts, which will support project implementation, provide sectorial insights, foster synergies between project winners and encourage best-practice sharing
  • Widespread communication campaigns piloted by AFD during the selection phase, award ceremony, bootcamp and for a period of time after these events.
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The 2021 Challenge for Utilities is open to projects owned by sub-Saharan African public electricity power utilities (including public Independent System Operators, power pools, regional organizations, energy regulators, rural electrification authorities and public organizations in charge of biomass resource preservation) in a partnership with an innovative technology/service provider.

Projects must address one of the following themes:

  • Universal energy access such as innovative off-grid solutions (mini/microgrids with energy management or storage systems for optimal use of clean, renewable energy, interconnections with the main grid or microgrids, energy metering or revenue collection); stand-alone systems (solar kiosks or kits); on-grid solutions (power capacity optimization tools, grid extension tools, tools to increase customer connections).
  • Improvement of grid management and quality of service for reduction of losses and power outages such as digital tools that: reduce technical or non-technical losses (blackout risk analysis, reduction or management), improve power supply continuity or enhance quality service management.
  • Solutions enabling a high integration rate of renewable energy (RE) into the power system such as digital tools to connect RE to grid, manage RE production sites, implement interconnection dynamic line rating, mix renewable and non-renewable sources to optimize RE use, control and manage grid flexibility and stability, connect/disconnect RE capacities, forecast RE production or other services to the grid needed for higher RE penetration.

The project owner must be in a partnership with a technology/service provider who must meet the following criteria:

  • Less than 15 years existence or have already developed an innovative solution to be tested
  • National or international registered company
  • More than 5 employees
  • Annual turnover of less than €50M
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The collaborative project must have digital technology as a core element (telecom, computer or cloud-based technology); be innovative either intrinsically or in relation to the local market/country; and be local i.e. have project management activities in the country where the project is based.

Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo Democratic Republic, Congo Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

How to Apply

  • Download the Utilities Application Pack (email address required)
  • Watch the information webinar recording from 28th April
  • Complete the application form and prepare the required documents

Deadline: Apply before July 16th, 2021.


Click here for more details and to apply