Developing A Real-Time Sms Feedback Tool For Off-Grid Household Electricity Consumption
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Close to 95% of the 1.2 billion global population without grid access live in Sub Saharan Africa, South and East Asia, and the remainder is spread just about equally across Middle East, Central Asia and Latin America. The situation is worse in Africa with the continent having some of the countries with the lowest electrification rates. For instance, in Liberia, Chad and Burundi, only 1 in 20 people have access to the grid. The main cause of this has been reported to be high costs involved in grid infrastructure extensions and community settlement arrangements where many communities are isolated. Off-grid energy systems have proven to be a silver-bullet to most of SSA energy access problems. Investments in the off-grid industry have grown by a 15-fold since 2012 to $276 million in 2015 with PayAs-You-Go companies taking over 87% of the investments. It is estimated that 1 in 3 offgrid households globally will use off-grid solar by 2020, however, the off-grid system still suffers from problems, the main ones being operation and maintenance/user errors, capacity limitation and ensuring energy efficiency. Energy efficiency is a very critical part of energy systems because by boosting the efficiency of production, transmission and distribution processes, it frees up resources, thereby acting as a virtual power source. Therefore, in the move to ensure sustainable and equitable energy access, energy efficiency is an indispensable part that cannot be overlooked in developing economies. In this thesis therefore, a real-time SMS tool that informs off-grid households their electricity consumption through short text messages on their phones is developed. By informing users of their consumption, it is anticipated that energy awareness is enhanced thereby influencing users’ behaviors and hence promoting energy efficiency. Besides awareness, majority of energy users often lack sufficient knowledge and skills to reduce their energy consumption, the tool aims to address this problem as well. The tool provides timely feedback about consumption through simple and understandable text messages. The algorithm collects data from the three main parts of the solar system i.e. power generation, storage and consumption. This is translated into simpler SMS which are sent to the user. The thesis demonstrates that it is possible to avail consumption information timely to offgrid energy users and that this could be leveraged to improve energy efficiency in off-grid systems.