Written by IEEE | August 31, 2018

It is daunting to develop solutions to global energy access challenges, but the IEEE Power Electronics Society (PELS) has chosen to champion this difficult task.

Electricity is the backbone upon which modern societies are built. A lack of access to electricity severely affects livelihood, productivity, health, education and digital and financial inclusion.

While much of the world has had the tremendous benefit of a centralized electrical transmission grid, there are currently 1.1 billion people who live in energy poverty due to not having access to electricity.

PELS, comprised of leaders in power electronic technologies, has chosen to address this opportunity through the IEEE Empower a Billion Lives initiative, a recurring global competition to crowdsource innovation for development and deployment of viable solutions to energy access that have a radical scaling potential.

A primary goal for the initiative is to help develop solutions with reduced technology and market risk and to prove new business models and pathways that ensure scaling solutions that are economically viable and sustainable.

The IEEE Empower a Billion Lives initiative features a multi-round global competition. In it, teams from around the world will submit an online proposal, and those accepted with move to one of five regional rounds held between November 2018 and February 2019 in China, India, South Africa, Spain and Puerto Rico, the U.S. With four tracks available for entries, winning teams will go on to field-test the solutions in the very type of communities that require energy access. Following the field-testing and evaluation, there will be a global final in September 2019 with an estimated total prize purse of $1 million.

IEEE PELS maintains the ultimate goal of advancing the theory and practice of electrical and electronics engineering and of the allied arts and sciences. The society aids in the promotion of cooperation and the exchange of technical information among its members and affiliates hold meetings for the presentation of papers, sponsors periodicals and special publications and have seven technical committees.