ESCO Box: Smart monitoring, billing and control for pro-poor access to energy services

Lead Research Organisation: De Montfort University
Department Name: Institute of Energy and Sustainable Dev

Abstract

This lack of access to electricity is particularly acute in rural Africa. Despite major advances, connection over large distances from small communities to existing grids is costly due to the cables, substations and additional equipment required. By 2008, 40% of Africans had access to electricity, but in sparsely populated rural areas the average drops to a mere 22.7%, in stark contrast to the 80% global average. Although many individual sites in rural areas, particularly mobile phone masts, have their own generators, there has been a reluctance to extend these to create local electricity networks. The use of small, independent electricity grids, powered by renewable or fossil fuel generators, presents operational and financial challenges.

The proposed ESCoBox is thus indented to address financial and practical barriers to electricity access by enabling local agents to act as small (but expandable) Energy Service Companies (ESCos), by buying power wholesale from larger off-grid generators (e.g. mobile phone mast operators) and selling it to local customers. The ESCoBox is an enabling technology that will allow cross-sector innovation, from novel financing, to social interventions, entrepreneurial ventures and better designed technologies and services

Planned Impact

ESCoBox will be an open-source technology platform with wireless communications capability that complements clean energy interventions in rural Africa. It aims to facilitate local entrepreneurship (providing affordable electricity for wealth-creating activities and establishing local Energy Service Companies), via pro-poor pricing models and cashless micro-payments for end-users. Additional societal benefits may accrue: e.g. improved water management, access to healthcare, ICT and entertainment, and - being low-carbon energy - all this without pollution. ESCoBox will provide high resolution, real-time data on end-user behaviour to facilitate more appropriate technology and service design, plus remote control and wireless telecommunications (e.g. for MPesa payments). The technology will be scalable from individual lantern to mini-grid. It provides a culturally-appropriate, accepted mechanism whereby 'agents' in remote areas can take care of local management and service delivery.

Two key aspects of ESCoBox make it powerful tool: firstly, a 'smart' control and monitoring system that optimises the operation of energy networks at various scales and levels of autonomy (e.g. off-grid or grid connected) to ensure reliability of energy supply, lower cost and longer system life; secondly, it is underpinned by the sophisticated, agent-based, CASCADE software model that provides a powerful Decision Support Tool (DST) for the adaptation and optimisation of both functional control (for reliability, efficiency, flexibility, responsiveness, cost-effectiveness) and commercial models (for user-focussed system evolution, market growth and business development, economic risk reduction and investment support).

Dissemination to the community and potential users, plus businesses, policy makers and academia, will be focussed though a number of activities: (1) engagement of potential customers (end users, NGOs, ESCos); (2) user needs analysis; (3) identification of possible sites (including existing projects) on which to test prototypes; (4) training and capacity building of local technicians to install, maintain and operate ESCoBoxes in the field (5) establishment of a project website, leaflets, newsletters, blogs; (6) dissemination to the academic research community.
 
Description Understanding the needs of the users is critical to implementing a successful system. Much of what we have learnt in the ESCoBox project has been in the development of this understanding. So, what we have discovered about the practical, social, economic and cultural aspects of energy supply and usage in low-income, rural, off-grid communities is being fed into our technical development of micro-grids. One of the key findings in this respect is that - even in areas of great poverty - such systems must be founded upon strong commercial models to be viable, sustainable and to achieve ongoing wealth creation and improvements in the quality of life of poor communities (although it may be argued that governments should subsidise access to modern energy services via mini-grid as much as they typically do for grid-connected energy). Having seen the challenges (and often failures) encountered by numerous existing (and some proposed) energy systems in the Global South that we have visited, it is becoming increasingly clear that this need for commercial viability and sustainability is severely hampered by extremely low levels of professionalism in the planning, implementation, operation and maintenance of systems. ESCoBox offers tools to assist in techno-economic optimization, but the need for fundamental and extensive training is an urgent requirement if these systems are to be successfully deployed and operated. Therefore, our recommendation is that further work in this field would include a major component of training and education in concert with any technical developments. In applying good business practice ourselves, we have focused on developing simple-but-effective methods of service delivery, thus we have dispensed with many of the more complex 'smart grid' techniques in favor of a simple, financially-incentivised, timeslot-allocation offer to high-demand users.
Exploitation Route We hope that others will, like us, use these findings to guide their development of mini-grid technology and service delivery models to create systems that have a greater beneficial impact on quality-of-live in poor rural or peri-urban communities.
We have provided open-source versions of the ESCoBox Decision Support Tool (DST) and published papers explaining how ESCoBox methodologies can be used. Various aspects of the ESCoBox system will be taken forward into future research, such as the battery State-of-Health monitoring, models and algorithms, the load disaggregation techniques, control systems, DST, needs and impacts assessment, and a wide range of knowledge and experience gained first-hand by work in the field.
Now that ESCoBox has established a robust mechanism for incentivising (by price) and implementing timeslot allocation for certain electrical loads to improve system reliability and costs, this can be explored further with particular demand loads in mind. For example, we shall be investigating the application of incentivised timeslot allocation to high-efficiency electric cooking, which can reduce deforestation and health risks caused by burning wood or charcoal fuel.
Access to electric power enables increased productivity for small businesses in off-grid communities, but it is through selling this extra product to a wider market that creates increased income. Therefore, we shall also be investigating the viability of powering electric vehicles from mini-grids, which can give small businesses the necessary physical access to wider markets, thus fully unlocking the potential benefits of the provision of electricity in the first instance. This also exploits the many advantages of electric vehicles that can be particularly relevant to such communities.
Training and the professionalisation of those involved in energy provision and management is another area that our future research will address as we have seen this to be a critical weakness in mini-grid systems that fail to deliver on their original promise.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Electronics,Energy,Environment,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Retail,Transport

URL http://www.dmu.ac.uk/research/research-faculties-and-institutes/institute-of-energy-and-sustainable-development/research-projects/escobox.aspx
 
Description Much of the work of the ESCoBox project has been focused on understanding what the users want and need from the system. Having gained considerable insight into this, we applied that knowledge to the technical design of the system. ESCoBox's Decision Support Tool (DST), which helps to predict and manage power demand profiles, is being used to analyze failure modes and inefficiencies in under-performing mini-grids in The Gambia, where we are carrying out field trials of the system. The battery State of Health (SOH) model, which feeds into the DST, provided insights that underpinned important guidance to a failing energy kiosk business in Malawi to enable it to transform into a viable enterprise that gives valuable service to the local community. One of the key findings from the ESCoBox project is the degree to which human factors (skills and education, social and cultural factors, commercial acumen and professionalism) must be addressed to ensure the success of energy delivery systems. On the basis of these findings, plus the functional capabilities of ESCoBox, we are building relationships in India, Nepal, Malawi, Kenya, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, The Gambia, Nigeria and Ghana to enable future work in developing the necessary skills and education needed, alongside implementation of the technical aspects of ESCoBox, which is intended to maximize its impact. We are also preparing research proposals that extend ESCoBox's role into zero-emission transport provision (to provide remote communities with access to wider markets for income generation), fuel-less cooking and food processing, plus novel energy storage. On-going co-creation of solutions for the Global South is being promoted by, for example, the establishment of a permenant 'living lab' at the ESCoBox field test site in The Gambia, which is having a significant impact on the local community.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Electronics,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Retail,Transport
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Global Challenges Research Fund Institutional Sponsorship Award 2016
Amount £20,067 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P51083X/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2016 
End 03/2017
 
Description Newton fund
Amount £4,000 (GBP)
Organisation Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development OECD 
Sector Public
Country France
Start 03/2017 
End 03/2017
 
Title Battery State-of-Health (SOH) estimation method 
Description Two methods of battery SOH estimation have been developed within the ESCoBox project. In the methodology developed by the University of Nairobi, battery monitoring techniques and new algorithms were devised to allow estimation of the SOH of a battery on a stand-alone mini-grid system. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This system is being field-tested in a mini-grid system at a school in Kenya, where early indications are that it is performing reliably. 
 
Title Battery State-of-Health Model 
Description Two methods of battery SOH estimation have been developed within the ESCoBox project. In the methodology developed by Newcastle University, data mining techniques and assessment metrics to derive estimates of the State of Health (SOH) of stand-alone solar home systems were devised. Allows estimation of SOH of the battery and also inference of health of other system components. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This model is embedded within the ESCoBox Decision Support Tool (DST), which is already being applied to the reconfiguration of a mini-grid system in The Gambia (currently being used in a field trial of the ESCoBox system). This has improved the mini-grid system's performance at the field-test site and is available for deployment at other sites with similar impacts anticipated. 
URL http://www.dmu.ac.uk/research/research-faculties-and-institutes/institute-of-energy-and-sustainable-...
 
Title ESCoBox Decision Support Tool 
Description Using Monte Carlo simulation techniques, time-dependent energy demand profiles can be predicted with greater confidence and accuracy. This significantly aids in the design and management of reliable and cost-effective micro-grids and is designed to work in conjunction with widely used mini-grid design packages such as HOMER or as a stand-alone application. The Decision Support Tool (DST) is designed to run in the ubiquitous Microsoft Excel program, so as to maximize accessibility and minimize cost. It is used to improve the accuracy of estimating how much installed demand load can be accommodated on a mini-grid while reducing the risk of overload and blackouts. In particular, it enables the time-shifting of demand to be tested for technical and economic efficiency before implementation, thereby reducing risk (to users and investors). It works in conjunction with ESCoBox's control system to automatically implement demand shaping that protects the energy system from overload while improving its cost-effectiveness. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The ESCoBox DST is being used to optimize the design and control of mini-grids to maximize usage (thereby improving ROI), stability, reliability, availability, efficiency and affordability of energy services. It is being applied to the analysis of system failures in existing mini-grids and in the development of new ones. It will also be used in de-risking (technically and financially) the expansion of established mini-grids with growing demand. This tool will shortly be made available by open access on the ESCoBox website. 
 
Title Load Disaggregation Method 
Description Methodology to disaggreagate a collective electricity demand profile into is individual parts, down to the level of each device, using Hidden Markov models. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Load disaggreagtion techniques will improve the effectiveness and reliability of ESCoBox's Decision Support Toll (DST), which will be used to improve the technical and economic efficiency of mini-grids to provide better services to users at lower cost. 
 
Title Battery Model 
Description Battery model used primarily to analyse its State of Health in different situations, validated with real-world results. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This model will be used to guide the design, operation and management of batteries in mini-grids and will be used to inform ESCoBox's Decision Support Tool (DST). The intended outcome will be longer-lasting batteries, leading to greater reliability and reduced costs. 
 
Title Decision Support Tool 
Description ESCoBox's Decision Support Tools (DST) helps the designer or operator of a mini-grid to predict and manage the demand profile on the system in such a way as to improve cost effectiveness and reliability. It uses Monte Carlos simulations to assess the risk of overload with a given configuration of users and devices as well as to estimate the revenue from it. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The DST improves the prediction of demand profiles on mini-grids so as to reduce the risk of overload, blackout and system failure. Importantly, it also enables the mini-grid operator to test and implement demand management techniques to further improve these factors. ESCoBox, for example, uses time-slot allocation of heavy loads at preferential tariffs to achieve this, bringing more reliable electricity supplies at lower cost to some of the poorest communities in the world that may not otherwise be able to afford it. 
 
Title Load Disaggregation Analysis 
Description To be able to look at the aggregated demand profile of numerous devices and energy consumers and to work out how many of which devices are in use at any time would be very useful in the development of smart grids, but this has proved extremely challenging with high numbers of customers/devices. Mini-grids, however, feature small numbers of users with a small range of devices, so to detect which are being switched on or of throughout the day, is a far more realistic prospect when looking at their combined profile. This 'load dissagregatio' is being explored in the ESCoBox project as a means of adding greater accuracy and improved reliability of the Decision Support Tool mat the heart of the ESCoBox system. 
Type Of Material Data analysis technique 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Early indications are that load disaggregation is feasible on mini-grid systems and that the technique could add to the effectiveness of ESCoBox's DST. When sufficiently developed, this will be disseminated through the usual academic channels. 
 
Description Global Hands Gambia 
Organisation Global Hands Gambia
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Analysis of the performance of two stand-alone solar mini-grid systems and several solar home systems to understand failure modes and identify ways of resorting functionality, reducing cost, extending lifetimes and improving reliability. The use of design, analysis and management tools developed under the ESCoBox project.
Collaborator Contribution Providing access to stand-alone solar mini-grid systems (representing approximately £30,000 of assets) and solar home systems in real-world operation for use as a test-bed for the ESCoBox Decision Support Tool and, potentially, for its 'smart grid' control system. Global Hands is able to provide facilities for ongoing research in a number of areas related to, and emanating from, the ESCoBox project.
Impact An initial survey of the systems by an ESCoBox team member resulted in a immediate improvements in system performance and a brief report to Global Hands containing recommendations for further improvements, informed substantially by the use of the ESCoBox Decision Support Tool (DST). Many of these have been implemented, with others scheduled as part of a future growth strategy for the system. On a second visit by ESCoBox team members, the DST was used to design modifications to the mini-grid system to enable future expansion in usage and revenue generation, while further immediate improvements were undertaken in collaboration with local technicians and engineers. ESCoBox control hardware was also installed to implement demand management techniques that reduce costs while improving performance and reliability. Thus, in return for providing a field-test site for the ESCoBox system, Global Hands Gambia is getting its previously-failing energy system working, due largely to the intervention of ESCoBox. This collaboration brings together technical and social science specialists and is providing technical, economic and societal data that has been highly valuable to the ESCoBox project and will continue to inform follow-on research. It has also created a platform for ongoing research activities, nurturing local Gambian talent and providing in-country facilities for training, field-testing,business model development and deployment of sustainability measures that are expected to include energy, water, cooking, agricultural and transport technologies. With the dramatic political changes experienced in the Gambia recently, the path is now clear for this collaboration to significantly effect policies relating to these fields , due to the influence that Global Hands has the new political administration.
Start Year 2016
 
Description LCEDN USES Network 
Organisation Gamos
PI Contribution Knowledge sharing through several presentations and numerous workshop participations, site review visits, contributions to joint proposals.
Collaborator Contribution Knowledge sharing through conferences and workshops, contributions to joint proposals.
Impact A large amount of dissemination and highly valuable knowledge-sharing within and amongst a diverse international group of stakeholders beyond the network. Initiation of further projects and proposals.
Start Year 2013
 
Description LCEDN USES Network 
Organisation Imperial College London
Department Energy Futures Lab
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Knowledge sharing through several presentations and numerous workshop participations, site review visits, contributions to joint proposals.
Collaborator Contribution Knowledge sharing through conferences and workshops, contributions to joint proposals.
Impact A large amount of dissemination and highly valuable knowledge-sharing within and amongst a diverse international group of stakeholders beyond the network. Initiation of further projects and proposals.
Start Year 2013
 
Description LCEDN USES Network 
Organisation Midlands Energy Consortium
PI Contribution Knowledge sharing through several presentations and numerous workshop participations, site review visits, contributions to joint proposals.
Collaborator Contribution Knowledge sharing through conferences and workshops, contributions to joint proposals.
Impact A large amount of dissemination and highly valuable knowledge-sharing within and amongst a diverse international group of stakeholders beyond the network. Initiation of further projects and proposals.
Start Year 2013
 
Description LCEDN USES Network 
Organisation Midlands Energy Consortium
PI Contribution Knowledge sharing through several presentations and numerous workshop participations, site review visits, contributions to joint proposals.
Collaborator Contribution Knowledge sharing through conferences and workshops, contributions to joint proposals.
Impact A large amount of dissemination and highly valuable knowledge-sharing within and amongst a diverse international group of stakeholders beyond the network. Initiation of further projects and proposals.
Start Year 2013
 
Description LCEDN USES Network 
Organisation UCL Partners Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Knowledge sharing through several presentations and numerous workshop participations, site review visits, contributions to joint proposals.
Collaborator Contribution Knowledge sharing through conferences and workshops, contributions to joint proposals.
Impact A large amount of dissemination and highly valuable knowledge-sharing within and amongst a diverse international group of stakeholders beyond the network. Initiation of further projects and proposals.
Start Year 2013
 
Description LCEDN USES Network 
Organisation UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Knowledge sharing through several presentations and numerous workshop participations, site review visits, contributions to joint proposals.
Collaborator Contribution Knowledge sharing through conferences and workshops, contributions to joint proposals.
Impact A large amount of dissemination and highly valuable knowledge-sharing within and amongst a diverse international group of stakeholders beyond the network. Initiation of further projects and proposals.
Start Year 2013
 
Description LCEDN USES Network 
Organisation University of Cambridge
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Knowledge sharing through several presentations and numerous workshop participations, site review visits, contributions to joint proposals.
Collaborator Contribution Knowledge sharing through conferences and workshops, contributions to joint proposals.
Impact A large amount of dissemination and highly valuable knowledge-sharing within and amongst a diverse international group of stakeholders beyond the network. Initiation of further projects and proposals.
Start Year 2013
 
Description LCEDN USES Network 
Organisation University of Manchester
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Knowledge sharing through several presentations and numerous workshop participations, site review visits, contributions to joint proposals.
Collaborator Contribution Knowledge sharing through conferences and workshops, contributions to joint proposals.
Impact A large amount of dissemination and highly valuable knowledge-sharing within and amongst a diverse international group of stakeholders beyond the network. Initiation of further projects and proposals.
Start Year 2013
 
Description LCEDN USES Network 
Organisation University of Southampton
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Knowledge sharing through several presentations and numerous workshop participations, site review visits, contributions to joint proposals.
Collaborator Contribution Knowledge sharing through conferences and workshops, contributions to joint proposals.
Impact A large amount of dissemination and highly valuable knowledge-sharing within and amongst a diverse international group of stakeholders beyond the network. Initiation of further projects and proposals.
Start Year 2013
 
Description LCEDN USES Network 
Organisation University of Surrey
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Knowledge sharing through several presentations and numerous workshop participations, site review visits, contributions to joint proposals.
Collaborator Contribution Knowledge sharing through conferences and workshops, contributions to joint proposals.
Impact A large amount of dissemination and highly valuable knowledge-sharing within and amongst a diverse international group of stakeholders beyond the network. Initiation of further projects and proposals.
Start Year 2013
 
Description LCEDN USES Network 
Organisation University of Warwick
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Knowledge sharing through several presentations and numerous workshop participations, site review visits, contributions to joint proposals.
Collaborator Contribution Knowledge sharing through conferences and workshops, contributions to joint proposals.
Impact A large amount of dissemination and highly valuable knowledge-sharing within and amongst a diverse international group of stakeholders beyond the network. Initiation of further projects and proposals.
Start Year 2013
 
Description LCEDN USES Network 
Organisation University of York
Department SPRU Social Policy Research Unit
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Knowledge sharing through several presentations and numerous workshop participations, site review visits, contributions to joint proposals.
Collaborator Contribution Knowledge sharing through conferences and workshops, contributions to joint proposals.
Impact A large amount of dissemination and highly valuable knowledge-sharing within and amongst a diverse international group of stakeholders beyond the network. Initiation of further projects and proposals.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Ruairi McLoughlin, Engineers Without Borders 
Organisation Engineers Without Borders (UK)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The open-source Decision Support Tool (DST) software created in the ESCoBox project is being used for a project being undertaken by the partner in Malaysia. Apart from providing the original software platform, we are assisting in its modification to accommodate a larger number of households and businesses on the mini-grid.
Collaborator Contribution The project for which the ESCoBox DST is being used is using micro-hydroelectric generators off-grid communities to help develop productive end uses of renewable energy in Malaysian Borneo. An individual who is working for Engineers Without Borders UK on an international placement, approached us to ask for support in modifying the open-source ESCoBox software for the specific challenges of this project, which is being carried out by EWB in collaboration with local social enterprise TONIBUNG renewables.
Impact Once in use, the mini-grid will be able to provide important field data on its operation and the effect of incorporating the ESCoBox system in its design and management.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Strauss Energy 
Organisation University of Nairobi
Department School of Engineering
Country Kenya 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The ESCoBox project catalysed the expansion of the research team and facilities in the School of Engineering at the University of Nairobi (UoN). This led directly to the development of an innovative solar roof tile product aimed at the African market, on the back of which a company called Strauss Energy has been established in Kenya. The roof tile is being field-tested at a school in Kenya alongside the UoN's battery State-of-Health (SOH) monitoring system, which was developed as part of the ESCoBox project.
Collaborator Contribution Without the establishment of the ESCoBox project, this technical and commercial enterprise would not have been launched. The UoN used knowledge and research capacity gained through participation in the ESCoBox project to underpin the development of the solar roof tile and to enable it to be tested in real-world operation. It is anticipated that ongoing collaboration with other ESCoBox partners will lead to further technical innovations.
Impact Development of an innovative solar (PV) roof tile. Product field trial in a school. Field trial of battery SOH monitoring system at the same field test site (working in conjunction with solar roof tile). Disciplines involved include: materials science, electrical and electronic engineering, electrochemistry, product design, process engineering, business management and marketing.
Start Year 2013
 
Title Decision Support Tool 
Description Excel-based tool for estimating the daily power demand profile of a mini-grid, allowing time-slot allocation at preferential tariffs to high-power loads in order to reduce the risk of system overload and blackout, while increasing ROI by operating the system at higher capacity factor. Uses Monte Carlo simulations to derive demand profiles. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2015 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact The DST is at the heart of the ESCoBox system and is intended to reduce the cost of building and operating mini-grid systems, thus making it cheaper for customers while increasing the profit to the system operator and improving the reliability and quality of energy service delivery. It is also being used in the analysis of failure modes and inefficiencies of under-performing mini-grids in The Gambia and will be used in re-configuring the operational routine of the system to ensure it functions properly. 
 
Title Demand Management Controller 
Description This 'smart grid' controller allows the demand of specific users and devices to be managed according to their tariff. Users of power-hungry devices can reduce their energy costs by purchasing power through a Time of Use (ToU) tariff, which is implemented via this new control software that is being developed in the ESCoBox project. There are a number of ways of doing this, but in the ESCoBox project we have narrowed these down to one option, which is to sell allotted time-slots to high power users. This is to gain the greatest benefit with the greatest simplicity, as complex arrangements are less likely to be taken up by customers. The program is currently being developed and tested on a Raspbery-Pi platform to allow a low-cost, widely-deployable solution. It is intended that this software will be made Open Source. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact The primary use of this controller will be in implementing time-slot allocations to high power demand loads on power-limited mini-grids, such as those supplied from hydro-electric generators. This technique reduces the chance of overloading the system at peak demand periods by activating power supply circuits to high-power load at pre-allocated time-slots during off-peak periods. This allows more customers to be served at lower cost to them, while increasing reliability of the mini-grid and improving the operator's Return on Investment (ROI) by keeping the system running closer to full capacity. It can also be applied to energy-limited mini-grids, such as those supplied from wind or solar generators. In this situation, the time-slots are sold at preferential rates during periods of high solar (or wind) input. This reduces reliance on batteries, allowing smaller (and cheaper) battery banks, which are put under much less stress so that they last longer. Thus blackouts and battery damage are reduced as are lifetime costs and therefore customer tariffs. 
 
Title Low-cost pulsing DC power monitor to interface with ESCO-Box 
Description A device designed in Kenya to provide realtime cumulative power use data to the ESCO-Box/bitHarvester system to allow the monitoring of DC loads and generation sources. 
Type Of Technology New/Improved Technique/Technology 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact The device is still under testing so impact is yet to be realised. 
 
Description End of Project Workshop, Nairobi 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Workshop aimed at disseminating information about the ESCoBox project to a predominantly African audience of 43 attendees from the academia, industry, NGOs and International Development practitioners, policy makers, etc.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://lcedn.com/community/conference-series/community-conference-series-lcedn-4th-conference/
 
Description End-user engagement 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Face-to-face discussions with end-users and potential end-users in peri-urban and rural African communities result in numerous valuable insights for all the project team about the practical, social, cultural and economic issues relating to the provision and use of energy systems in these environments. Each year, project partners meet for a week in a region where the micro-grids are being installed (Kenya, Malawi), during which these discussions are undertaken, plus individual team members have been engaged in similar face-to-face discussions with end-users in The Gambia, India, Nepal, Zimbabwe and Rwanda. In addition to the insights gained by the ESCoBox team, considerable knowledge and information is passed on to the numerous and varied people with which they are interacting (end-users, potential end-users, school children, students, entrepreneurs, policy makers), who are always very receptive to this new knowledge and generally highly enthusiastic about its potential.

As well as educating us, these visits to various communities are a powerful way of spreading the word about what we are doing to those who are most able to benefit from it. Those who are already connected to the micro-grids gain useful information about efficiency measures and behaviours through which they can get the most out of the service, while those yet to be connected begin to see what wealth-creation and quality-of-life benefits can be gained if they join. For the ESCoBox project team,
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014,2015,2016
 
Description Field visits for Solar-Nano-Grids (SONGs) project 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Visited two field trial sites for the Solar-Nano-Grids (SONGs) project (part of the USES group of projects, to which ESCoBox also belongs) to give advice on the conduct of they SONGs project using knowledge and experience gained through ESCoBox.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://solarnanogrids.org/
 
Description Gambian mini-grids 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact In-depth discussions with mini-grid operators and users about under-performance and failure of systems and a variety of remedies to solve the problems. Also, discussed ideas for future related enterprises (e.g. business, training).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description LCEDN 4th Conference: Off-Grid and Renewable Transitions in Energy Livelihoods 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation to LCEDN 4th Conference: Off-Grid and Renewable Transitions in Energy Livelihoods at Durham University about ESCoBox project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://lcedn.com/community/conference-series/community-conference-series-lcedn-4th-conference/
 
Description Lectures 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact The ESCoBox project and its outcomes are regularly reported on to both undergraduate and postgraduate students in numerous lectures delivered by academic members of the ESCoBox team at De Montfort University, Newcastle University and the University of Nairobi.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Low Carbon Energy and Development Network conference, Edinburgh 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation about the ESCoBox project to predominantly research community involved in International Development at the Low Carbon Energy and Development Network conference in Edinburgh.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2016
URL http://lcedn.com/
 
Description Press release 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Interview with BBC Radio Leicester followed as a consequence of this press release. Not aware of anything else that appeared in the media as a result of this press release.

Awareness of the ESCoBox project among De Montfort University's media contacts, which is intended to prime them for more significant announcements as the project progresses and to make them aware of our activity in this field.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Questioning the Logic conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Conference/workshop held at the Manduar Community Development Hub, The Gambia, entitled 'Questioning the "Logic of the System": Generating Counter Development Narratives for Emerging Countries'. Knowledge-sharing between local community, practitioners, researchers, students and policy-makers in relation to matters of international development.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Radio Leicester Interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview on BBC Radio Leicester about Sloar Taxci project in Africa, which follows on from the ESCoBox project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Radio interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Live interview on Africell radio, a popular local radio station in The Gambia, regarding the innovative energy systems being piloted at the Manduar Community Development Hub.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Radio interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The impact was not quantified, but feedback from acquaintances who heard the interview on BBC Radio Leicester suggest that awareness about this project has been raised among listeners in the Leicestershire region.

Acquaintances who were unaware of my involvement in such activities were delighted to hear about the work being undertaken and requested more information.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Social Enterprise conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact International Summit on Social Entrepreneurship at De Monfort University, Leicester, UK. Attended by a diverse group of practitioners, researchers, students, businesses, third-sector organisations and members of the public. Included presentations, workshop sessions and discussions, icluding some relating to the ESCoBox projects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Solar Taxi on Gambian TV news 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact News item on Gambian national TV news about the lauch of the Solar Taxi - Aftrica's first solar-powered taxi service! This pilot project follows on directly from the ESCoBox project, using it's mini-grid (currently undergiong a field trial) to recharge an electric vehicle.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://drive.google.com/file/d/1zu-_bfvp7nA1LjfsXFFNiZGAFulAszKC/view?usp=drive_web
 
Description USES workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 3-day workshop in Nakuru, Kenya. Dissemination and knowledge sharing amongst the group of 13 projects that are linked together under the USES banner, plus a wider audience (see listed above). Included presentations, discussion sessions (including developing plans for how the USES programme should go forward) and site visits.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.lcedn.com/blog/understanding-sustainable-energy-solutions-uses-workshop-be-held-nakuru-n...
 
Description University of The Gambia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Meeting with Vice Chancellor and senior academics at the University of The Gambia to discuss educational links and skills provision in the technical, economic, social and policy aspects of renewable energy systems and their implementation. Possible links to other West African educational institutions (e.g. Ho Polytechnic, Ghana, where we already have strong connections).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Visit to Green Malata, Malawi 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact A visit to an energy kiosk and vocational training center (in sustainable energy technologies and other skills) resulted in a highly productive informal workshop. ESCoBox team members provided guidance to trainees at the center, plus vital technical and commercial advice that would convert an energy kiosk with a failing business model into a sustainable and profitable enterprise by some simple adjustments to its business practice. The training center was an inspiration to ESCoBox members as it appeared to be a very effective model for the development of skills and earning potential in sustainable energy and other trades as well as wider public engagement and the provision of energy services to the poor.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Website 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Development of the project website brings our project to a wider audience and is designed to inform and stimulate feedback and build relationships.

The website has only just gone live and so it is too early to report on resulting impacts.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.dmu.ac.uk/escobox