IEEE Smart Village Steps into the Spotlight

The IEEE Foundation program that brings renewable energy to underserved communities is getting worldwide recognition

5 June 2015

In February, we wrote about IEEE Smart Village, a donor-supported humanitarian program that is working with entrepreneurs in underserved areas to set up micro-utilities, bringing electricity to thousands of people while also providing jobs to the local community. A signature program of the IEEE Foundation, Smart Village is currently serving more than 15,000 people through local partners in Cameroon, Haiti, India, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Sudan. In these countries, fewer than one out of three people have access to electricity and instead rely on kerosene lamps to light their homes.

Recently, a number of companies and organizations have shown support for Smart Village and its mission to provide basic electrical and as well as providing mentoring and training to more than 50 million people by 2025.


    The IEEE Smart Village was named a finalist for the Bloomberg Energy Finance Summit’s Finance for Resilience initiative, which recognizes powerful ideas and actionable interventions for clean energy, climate, and sustainability. Experts in these areas choose five finalists who are given the opportunity to present their projects at the summit, which was held from 13 to 15 April in New York City. 

    Paul Savage, CEO of Nextek Power Systems, in Detroit, gave a presentation called Scalable and Standards-Based DC Microgrids” on behalf of the IEEE Smart Village initiative He discussed the development of new standards for DC power microgrids, as well as how to give people in underserved countries easier access to wireless communications technologies.


    Alstom, an international electricity generation company with headquarters in Paris, awarded a US $28,000 grant to Kilowatts for Humanity—an initiative supported by Seattle University, IEEE Power & Energy Society, and IEEE Smart Village. The grant is part of Alstom’s We Share the Power program, which aims to find ways to reduce its customers’ electricity consumption and donate the money saved to electrification projects in underserved countries. The money will go toward an electrification project in southern Zambia set to kick off this month.

    In conjunction with Smart Village, Kilowatts for Humanity leads sustainable energy development projects around the world.


    What is the largest and most complex machine that people have ever built? Some people might think it’s the Internet, says Senior Member Avnaesh Jayantilal, a volunteer with IEEE Smart Village and a power engineer at Alstom. It’s actually the electric grid, he says. Despite this, “We’re still very much a dark planet,” he says, noting that one in five people around the world do not have access to electricity—and a majority of these people live in rural Africa.

    Jayantilal spoke at a TEDx event held in April at Eastside Preparatory School, in Kirkland, Wash. In his presentation, “Community Microgrids for a Sustainable Future” he told the success story of a project in which Smart Village volunteers and engineering students at Seattle University designed and installed a mobile charging station at Kristy’s Cape Academy, a primary school in Muhuru Bay, Kenya. It allows students and their families to charge cell phones as well as battery packs that help light their homes.


    Smart Village awarded a $150,000 grant to the Torchbearer Foundation for Missions, Reconciliation and Development—a nonprofit organization based in the United States that leads humanitarian projects in Cameroon. In partnership with TBF, Smart Village will establish three independent, self-sustaining micro-utilities in West Africa that will provide electricity for thousands of impoverished people living in Cameroon and other countries.

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