All things Open Source in Energy Access. In an effort to make safe, affordable, and clean energy available for every person on the planet, we're going to need to remove some of the most common barriers. By open sourcing software, hardware, and knowledge, we can save very valuable time and money for the companies that are building mini grids in rural villages, setting up solar home systems on remote islands, building the technology to make appliances PAYGO compatible.
Season 2, Ep 1: All Things Open Source with James Vasile, Partner at Open Tech Strategies
In this episode, I’m talking with James Vasile, a Partner in Open Tech Strategies, a consultation firm based in New York City. This conversation is going to explore the why/why not, the upsides and any downsides about open source in energy access. I’m going to try and cover some of the most common questions that I hear.
James Vasile is a recognized expert on free and open source software. He has over fifteen years of experience as a user, developer, advocate, and advisor in all things open source; and has further expertise in licensing and community-building, as well as non-profit and small business startup. Open Tech Strategies works with a wide range of clients such as Microsoft, the MacArthur Foundation, The Red Cross.
Why should people open source their work? What are the benefits? What are the downsides? What should you consider before you pick which license you want to go with? James helps companies figure out these questions every day.
Blog series mentioned in the episode: Open Source At Large
Episode 05: OpenO2 by EnAccess
In this episode I'm going to be talking about how and why we've decided to work on an open source Oxygen Concentrator with Joel Chaney, the Innovation Program Manager at EnAccess, as well as Phil Bonnett, an anesthesiologist who has worked in a hospital in Zambia, in Africa.
Normally I interview people who have recently completed a project that was funded by EnAccess. This time around we're talking about a different sort of topic: project that we just recently got started with, which is an open source Oxygen Concentrator. We call the project Open O2. The Open O2 project is really different than anything we’ve done in the past - we’re working with multiple communities, individuals, companies, and doctors.
The inspiration for the Open O2 project came because EnAccess wanted to do something relevant for the world we’re living in now, which is under a lot of stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic. EnAccess is uniquely positioned to help - we are experienced innovators and understand the unique challenges that are facing low resource settings, and underserved communities. So we decided to support the design and manufacturing of an open source Oxygen Concentrators for these underserved communities. We want to quickly get to a working design that can be locally built, repaired and used in settings where we know access to energy is an issue.
The more people that know about this idea, and who may be able to contribute, the better chance we have at success. Visit enaccess.org for more information.
Episode 04: AgriGrid by Anka Madagasgar
Today I'm going to be talking with Camille André-Bataille, the CEO of ANKA Madagascar, about an idea for a new business model called AgriGrid - the idea of pairing access to electricity with local agricultural sectors.
The AgriGrid business model refers to a hybrid organization that combines commercial opportunities in rural electrification with food & agricultural value chain development. The idea is that beyond providing electricity, an AgriGrid operator would also play an active role in developing rural food & agricultural market activity. There’s so much to explore about this idea and how to integrate energy services with agriculture - ranging from a mini-grid company that acts as a services provider to existing agricultural intermediaries, or going all the way through to a fully integrated agribusiness that grows, processes, packages, and retails its own food products – in addition to selling electricity to the community.
The AgriGrid concept was created by ANKA Madagascar and Amanhã Ventures, and the EnAccess Foundation is proud to have supported this open source R&D project. All the materials can be found at enaccess.org/agrigrid.
Episode 03: The OpenPAYGO Token by Solaris Offgrid
Anyone that is selling a pay as you go device or service should know about the OpenPAYGO Token.
When PAYGO technology arrived in the energy access sector, it was a game-changer. By paying small amounts of money over a longer time period, families could afford better quality and safer lighting, phone charging, and much more.
But there was a frustrating problem that emerged - the integration of PAYGO into energy access products was being controlled by a handful of companies, and each company had their own closed system. Think about it like this - a distributor of solar home systems would have a box containing solar panels, a battery pack, wires, etc. This product would work exactly the same no matter who purchased it, but the distributor would have to have one supply of boxes with PAYGO technology A, one supply with PAYGO technology B, and another supply with PAYGO technology C. The frustration was felt by both the sellers and makers of energy access products all over the world, and was (and is) an industry-wide issue.
What we're talking about today with Benjamin David (CTO, Solaris Offgrid) is the big-picture solution that Solaris Offgrid designed. They took on the task of creating one free, open source, industry-standard solution called the OpenPAYGO Token. It can easily integrate with already-existing PAYGO platforms and is available for any manufacturer to implement in new devices as well.
Episode 02: Cicada, by Okra Solar
Today we’re going to talk about a really cool open source hardware solution with Damian Veling, the CTO of Okra Solar - this episode is definitely going to be more interesting for the engineers and developers out there, though anyone working in the IoT space will find the conversation interesting.
Okra is an Australian technology startup based in Cambodia. They work with local utilities to transform offgrid communities into energy abundant microgrid economies. One of the big reasons why millions of households all over the world still don’t have energy access infrastructure is because it’s physically hard to reach a lot of these places, which is why Okra relies on remotely monitoring the communities they service. But to be able to work like this means there needs to be some sort of data or wifi connectivity in the village - but connectivity is also a real challenge in some of the more remote areas of the world.
How to solve this very common and very real issue of connectivity in hard to reach areas? That’s what we’re going to talk about on today's show. Okra’s solution is called Cicada, an open source IoT Communications Module for Energy Access. Damian solved a really big problem that a lot of other energy access companies will be able to relate to - if you have been struggling with a solution for connectivity in your own IoT space, you’re going to want to listen closely: Cicada can be the solution that reduces your time to market, which can allow you to get back to work on the real problem you are solving.
EnAccess is proud to have all the open source materials published online. So if you’re ready to dig into the code and the documentation, or read the story behind the project, head over to https://enaccess.org/projects/- you’ll find everything you need there.
If you have any questions, comments, or tweaks for the code, we want to hear from you! You can visit https://www.okrasolar.com/ to send a message directly to the developers.
If you have an idea for a project that could be beneficial to the broader energy access sector, head to https://enaccess.org/ and submit your application today.
Episode 01: Devergy's Survey Toolkit
The EnAccess Foundation is proud to present the first episode of a new podcast, Open Energy Access.
The EnAccess Foundation is passionate about open source solutions, efficiency, and transparency in energy access. In this episode, we discuss the first project that we published - a Survey Toolkit that was developed by Devergy, a company that operates solar mini-grids in rural Tanzania.
But first, we cover the basics: Tamara Mahoney, head of marketing at EnAccess, explains the big picture issues that the energy access industry is working to solve. Rahul Barua, one of the co-founders, explains why EnAccess was started and what we do.
Next, we get into the project. We're joined by Gianluca Cescon, a co-founder of Devergy, to talk details about the project and what it means for the industry. The conversation includes some great learning experiences, tips, and the story of how an early mistake resulted in a successful (yet quite different than originally planned) project.
Finally, we discuss the realities of innovating in energy access, open source solutions, and and how we can all learn from each other.
We've never produced a podcast before, but are hopeful that bringing some of these behind-the-scenes conversations to the public will inspire new thinking and help new organizations or entrepreneurs.
In depth interviews with inspiring entrepreneurs
If you're interested in interviews with entrepreneurs who are trying to solve real problems in the world -- like people having access to energy -- OR if you just like listening to smart people talk about smart important world changing stuff -- this is a great listen.
We don’t often think of people who live off the grid and how they function on a daily basis. They don’t forego electricity not for lack of money, but simply lack of access. Installing solar panels to use the sun’s energy for areas like this is an incredible use of time and money. People’s lives can be changed for the better!
Super important topic that does not get enough attention, and it should. Presented in an understandable and informative manner.