The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Jay Taneja Leads New Service Using Satellite Imagery to Forecast Africa’s Electricity Consumption

Jay Taneja

Jay Taneja

The Electricity Growth and Use in Developing Economies (e-GUIDE) Initiative, a multi-university partnership led by Assistant Professor Jay Taneja of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department, recently released a service for forecasting household electricity consumption in Kenya using satellite imagery. The pioneering service from e-GUIDE, a collaboration between the Rockefeller Foundation, UMass Amherst, and four other leading universities, will help utilities, off-grid providers, and system planners improve the provision and expansion of electricity in rapidly growing regions of Africa.

See Space Daily; The Rockefeller Foundation; ESI Africa

As Taneja says, "We must be able to make the most of every investment in electricity access if we are to quickly and sustainably end energy poverty.”

The announcement of the new service was made at the Africa Utility Week Digital event in Cape Town, where the e-GUIDE Initiative launched its Electricity Consumption Prediction service for Africa. The service, which is freely available, provides estimates of future electricity consumption at high spatial resolution using deep learning techniques to combine satellite imagery with historical information and other big-data sources.

The service will improve the planning and provision of electricity towards ending energy poverty, helping to direct investments and scale projects that support the economic recovery of numerous African communities, many of which are devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The e-GUIDE Initiative is a collaboration between The Rockefeller Foundation, UMass Amherst, Columbia University, Carnegie Mellon University, the Rochester Institute of Technology, and Colorado School of Mines.

As Taneja says, “By making better use of data, we can significantly accelerate the pace of change and move away from a one-size-fits-all approach. It is only through data that we can understand the diversity that exists within consumption and identify on- and off-grid solutions that exactly meet the needs of customers, now and in the future.”

According to the Rockefeller Foundation, which is funding the service, the service addresses the challenges faced by utilities, regulators, system planners, off-grid companies, and researchers in knowledgeably matching supply and demand and identifying the most appropriate technology solutions for investment.

“By combining datasets and applying machine-learning techniques,” says the Rockefeller Foundation, “the service will create a comprehensive picture of expected demand for every region across Africa for the first time. In countries with limited historic consumption data, the service will extrapolate insights based on consumer profiles in similar environments, allowing learnings to flow across borders.”

The Rockefeller Foundation goes on the explain that development of the service will initially provide intelligence on residential consumption in Kenya, with Uganda and Rwanda soon to follow. In the coming year, the service will be expanded to forecast the consumption of small and medium enterprises as well. Coverage for all of Africa is anticipated by late 2021.

Taneja directs ECE’s STIMA (Systems Towards Infrastructure Measurement and Analytics) Lab. As he explains, “I study the application of computing tools to measuring and managing infrastructure in industrialized and developing regions, including energy and building systems, but also transportation, water, and sanitation systems. In my work, I develop and apply embedded/IoT and mobile systems as well as machine-learning techniques.”

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(January 2021)