Access to energy is critical for expanding economic opportunity, ensuring food security, and achieving other key measures of human development. This project aims to increase access to energy in targeted areas of Uganda, unlocking economic opportunity across the region.
The project will achieve this by collecting and analyzing data — making useful information widely accessible to assist in predicting where energy investments can lead to potential income generation. The data will be used to help the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and other partners invest in entrepreneurs, innovators, and other entities in the value chain to expand energy access in a sustainable way.
The data will also be made available to private and public investors to assist them in determining potential strategies for funding clean energy to populations in need of reliable access. As part of the project, Columbia researchers will develop and deploy new techniques for mapping energy demand, using the latest data gathering methods. The analyses will support a productive, sustainable, and growing energy market.
Vijay ModiProfessor of Mechanical Engineering, Columbia UniversityAffiliate, Earth Institute and Data Science Institute; Director, Sustainable Engineering LaboratoryRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Vijay Modi’s areas of expertise are energy resources/access, energy planning for access and renewable integration, demand estimation and role of novel payment systems in breaking barriers to upfront costs.
John J. MacWilliamsFellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy, Columbia UniversityFormer Associate Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of EnergyRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
John J. MacWilliams is a Fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. Prior to joining CGEP, MacWilliams served as Associate Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department...
M. Suresh SundaresanChase Manhattan Bank Foundation Professor of Financial InstitutionsRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Suresh Sundaresan is the Chase Manhattan Bank Foundation Professor of Financial Institutions at Columbia University. He has published in the areas of Treasury auctions, bidding, default...
Markus WalshRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Markus G. Walsh is a Senior Research Scientist in Landscape Ecology at the AgCenter. He is also Adjunct Senior Research Scientist at the Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Institute of CIAT in Nairobi.
Carl VondrickRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Carl Vondrick is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science of Columbia University.
Shih-Fu ChangRichard Dicker Chair Professor and Senior Executive Vice Dean of EngineeringRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Shih-Fu Chang's research is focused on computer vision, machine learning, and multimedia information retrieval. A primary goal of his work is to develop intelligent systems that can extract...
Edwin AdkinsRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Edwin Adkins has 15 years of experience in energy and rural electrification planning in developing countries. Mr. Adkins now works as a coordinator for energy projects for the Quadracci...
Philippe BenoitManaging Director, Energy, Global Infrastructure Advisory Services 2050Senior Associate, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Energy and National Security ProgramRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Philippe Benoit is Managing Director, Energy, for Global Infrastructure Advisory Services 2050 and Senior Associate with the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Energy and...
Consistent and affordable access to electricity plays a critical role in enabling economic opportunity, health, gender equality, food security, and environmental sustainability. Ensuring access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy remains a critical challenge that needs to be addressed.
Closing the energy gap requires looking beyond publicly-funded utility expansions and attracting private investment in businesses that can help expand energy access to populations in need. But attracting and targeting such investment is challenging because data on energy demand among populations without access remains limited. There is also a lack of information on how investments could improve the economic circumstances in these communities. Moreover, current models tend to treat energy demand as static and focus on household-level needs and first access, rather than income-generating and livelihood opportunities.
This project emerged from the Columbia World Projects Forum on energy access. Learn more about our work on this topic.
This project pilots an open-source database and derived information products to store, measure, and assess livelihoods-related energy demand. The data will be used to assist the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and other partners. Through its CleanStart initiative, UNCDF prioritizes support in the form of financing and technical assistance for businesses providing sustainable, reliable energy access. UNCDF will also support efforts to unlock private sector financing for qualifying micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises that have viable business models for breakthroughs and scale.
The work uses existing Columbia University data and builds on recent technological innovations. It will also harness Columbia's expertise in developing methods and procedures for acquiring and analyzing data on energy access.
In addition to gathering foundational data on energy usage, the project will assemble metrics for financial inclusion, availability of credit, FinScope Survey data, and data from existing payment systems. The goal is to reduce the logistical challenges and transactional costs associated with new businesses, promote blended public-private finance products, and work with government systems to fill in gaps in areas such as access to inputs, transport, and market access. Columbia will house the data it generates on an open-source platform designed to provide public insight into energy demand well beyond the project’s lifespan.
In Partnership With:
- United Nations Capital Development Fund