Webinar : Power to the People with Minigrids: Innovative Technologies and Investment Strategies that are Bringing Solar Energy to Rural Communities

Power to the People With Minigrids – Bringing Solar Power to Rural Communities from Security & Sustainability Forum on Vimeo.

Download the slides here

Originally aired on 9/11/2019

Today 1.06 billion people, or 20% of the world population, live without access to electricity (IEA and World Bank, 2017), mostly living in rural Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. They rely on torches and candles for lighting, and muscle power for most everything else. The result is a subsistence local economy. Providing reliable and sustainable access to electricity for these families brings many benefits. Light in the evenings raises educational levels because children can study at night; clinics can provide more reliable health care; burning less kerosene, indoor charcoal, and animal dung improves family health, and lighting in the village makes nighttime safer, especially for women.

Universal access to modern energy services is a prerequisite for poverty eradication and human and economic development. However, that access requires equity investments in impoverished communities. Who will make those investments, and is it possible to structure them to recover capital costs to get a return on the investment?

Watch LightWorks at ASU and SSF in a 90-minute webinar exploring innovations in financing off-grid (Minigrids) energy solutions in remote villages that can spark economic development and lead to sustainable rural energy markets.


Nathan Johnson is an Assistant Professor in The Polytechnic School of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. He is an active researcher and teacher of sustainable and resilient energy systems. Through his work, Dr. Johnson designs, optimizes, builds, and tests energy innovations to address challenges around the world. This work includes fundamental scientific research and applied engineering projects to help bridge the gap between academic research and commercialization.

Nate is also the Director of the ASU Laboratory for Energy And Power Solutions (LEAPS). His research team of 20 people incorporates skill sets from six disciplinary backgrounds. His team actively collaborates with universities, national laboratories, industry, and non-governmental organizations.

ERIKA LOVIN, CrossBoundary Energy Access Team

Erika Lovin leads the Mini-Grid Innovation Lab, part of the CrossBoundary Energy Access team, In partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, the Lab is testing business solutions for mini-grids based in Africa so that they can provide more power, to more people, at less cost.

Prior to Crossboundary, Erika worked at the Gates Foundation, assisting the Nutrition team in redefining its strategy to achieve the greatest impact worldwide. Since starting her career as a consultant in Accenture’s management consulting division, she has also gained experience in impact investing and on-the-ground operations addressing poverty alleviation.

HUMPHREY WIREKO, CrossBoundary Energy

Humphrey Wireko is a Senior Associate in CrossBoundary Energy. He works on assessing energy investments in Africa to electrify rural communities. Prior to joining CrossBoundary, Humphrey worked at The Boston Consulting Group in Johannesburg where he focused on advising senior leaders in a variety of sectors across Africa ranging from mining to insurance. He has also worked at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio where he specialized in providing regulatory guidance on state-wide electric issues to utilities, government officials and other stakeholders.

Humphrey is a Ghanaian American, who has worked in the United States, South Africa, Nigeria and Zambia. Humphrey is a member of the CrossBundary Energy Access team.


Sandra Kwak is the CEO of 10Power which finances renewable energy projects in developing communities. Her career has focused on applying disruptive innovations to create a regenerative future.

Before launching 10Power, Sandra scaled AutoGrid from prototype to a global brand, creating automated intelligence out of big data from the smart grid. Prior, as Co-Founder / President / COO of energy efficiency company Powerzoa, she brought building management hardware and software tools to market. Sandra has also served as CEO of a software company producing the world’s first mathematically lossless video codec. She worked at Pacific Gas & Electric implementing the ClimateSmart program and has consulted with clients including Mitsubishi, the Transamerica Holding Company, and The San Francisco Foundation.

George Ndubi of PowerGen Renewable Energy joins the webinar! PowerGen is a leading private utility in Africa, with over 50 micro-grids and hundreds of single off-taker systems deployed. George with talk about technical innovations that make the business models work.