EM-ONE Energy Solutions | 2020 Canadian SDG Accelerators Awards Profile

EM-ONE Energy Solutions

Industry: Renewables

Website: https://www.emone.com/

Category: SME

SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

Applicable Targets:

  • Target 7.1. By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services
  • Target 7.2. By 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix
  • Target 7.3. By 2030, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency

Please explain why the selected SDG is a priority for your company

EM-ONE was founded with the belief that everyone, around the world deserves access to modern and affordable electricity. We are an engineering and consulting firm that has been addressing the energy demand gap in Africa through sustainable energy and smart electricity infrastructure. 

Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in the world where the number of people lacking access to electricity is set to rise. Today, over 600 million people lack access to enough energy to build a better life. They cannot run their businesses without daily blackouts, preserve their crops from rotting, power lifesaving medical equipment, work from home or grow and prosper to access dignified opportunities. SDG 7 is the sustainable development goal that addresses this growing crisis and aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all by 2030.

Africa needs to develop. And bridging the energy access gap while building towards a resilient future that prioritizes our environment is the only way that this can happen. EM-ONE is committed to playing a part in the continent’s development by combining innovative technologies with international best practices and local expertise. We design and build sustainable energy solutions and are building towards the future African grid – which builds on decentralized, digitalized, decarbonized, and democratized energy solutions that will power opportunity for millions. 

We focus on innovating solutions that (1) close the energy access gap (2) power health facilities and (3) mitigate CO2 emissions. Over the past ten years, we have successfully electrified over 300 sites in West Africa through solar microgrids that provide 24-hour, sustainable electricity. Most of these microgrids power health facilities or education facilities and have a direct impact on the social services for underserved communities.

We believe that SDG 7 is one of the critical enablers for all the other development goals in Africa. And progress towards SDG 7 lies at the foundation of EM-ONE and is engrained in everything we do. We understand that affordable, modern, and reliable energy stands as a pillar that can significantly accelerate progress in all aspects of sustainable development – poverty, healthcare, education, sustainable cities, and climate change. Transforming our energy sector is essential for the survival and prosperity of ourselves and the generations to come. 

Please describe the initiatives/programs that your company is taking to address the TARGETS of your primary SDG.

EM-ONE addresses the SDG 7 targets through microgrids, smart electricity infrastructure and energy consulting. The following section describes how we address each of the SDG 7 targets:

7.1 – by 2030, ensure access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services

7.2 – by 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix

We design and build solar microgrids that address the power requirements of (1) off-grid / remote, last-mile communities and (2) larger off-takers. 

The off-grid / remote applications of our solutions focus largely on health clinics, schools and community electrification models. Our solutions to address the energy requirements of these users are our “modular microgrids,” which range from 5 kW to 1 MW and provide uninterrupted power supply using clean energy. These solutions reduce the operational costs that these facilities would otherwise have to pay for power through fossil fuel generation alternatives, such as diesel generators. 

The larger applications of our solutions focus on industrial / campus or commercial / industrial off-takers. Our solutions to address the energy requirements of these users are our “advanced microgrids,” which range from 500 kW – 20 MW and reduce the reliance of these facilities on the national grid, improve their resiliency and increase operating cost savings for our clients.

These solutions leverage renewable energy to solve the diverse set of energy challenges that exist in Sub Saharan Africa. They both increase access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services and increase the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

7.3 – by 2030, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency 

We understand that increasing generation capacity means very little in improving the overall energy system unless that energy is used wisely. In all our sites, we ensure the off taker is also completing an energy retrofit and energy efficiency upgrade to maximize the power generated by our solar microgrid systems. At one of our most exciting current projects, designing and deploying an advanced microgrid for Nigeria’s Ministry of Works & Housing office complex, we are also undertaking the complete retrofitting of 191 rooms with energy efficient LED lighting and HVAC units. The Mabushi project exemplifies the way forward for energy infrastructure projects in Africa.

7.a – by 2030, enhance international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and advanced and cleaner fossil-fuel technology, and promote investment in energy infrastructure and clean energy technology

Our R&D team is continuously innovating and optimizing our solutions to meet the technological improvements and changing needs of our market. We work to make our solutions last for longer, use the world’s leading technologies and address the diverse energy needs of our end users. 

We partner with donor organizations such as UK Aid, US Aid, USTDA and the World Bank; technology providers such as Schneider Electric, Tesla and BYD and leading university institutions such as University of Toronto and Carnegie Melon University to take a systems approach to scaling up renewables across the African continent. 

7.b – By 2030, expand infrastructure and upgrade technology for supplying modern and sustainable energy services for all in developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States, and land-locked developing countries, in accordance with their respective programmes of support

Our smart electricity infrastructure focus area refers to the evolution of the current, traditional power grid into the smart grid of the future. As more distributed energy systems are deployed, there will be a tipping point where it is required that these islands communicate and ultimate optimize the power and storage capacity within neighbouring assets. The future smart grid is a self-organizing system that integrates distributed energy resources and considers weather, electricity prices, power quality, demand, and other factors when receiving and discharging electricity within a stabilized and robust system. Currently, Africa’s grid suffers from poor maintenance and huge losses which results in unreliable power and frequent outages. This forces its population to either endure interrupted power supply for multiple hours per day or use a backup diesel generator to fill in the gaps. EM-ONE’s microgrids integrate IoT devices, such as smart meters and remote monitoring systems, reap multiple benefits like improved grid reliability and real-time metering. EM-ONE’s microgrid lays the foundation of smart electricity infrastructure needed to prepare for the continent’s grid of the future.

In addition to EM-ONE’s direct business activities, we also prioritize building local African capacity in renewable energy and gender equality within our firm. With dedicated programs and initiatives to ensure that the way we do business is aligned with our values.

Please highlight the key impacts and results of the mentioned initiatives

To quote former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, “energy is the golden thread that connects economic growth, social equity, and environmental sustainability.” At EM-ONE, we are so proud of the impact we have had over the last decade on improving the lives of millions of Africans. Looking forward, we only hope to build on these achievements and scale up our efforts to contribute towards Africa’s future grid.

To date, we have successfully electrified 83 health centers, 214 schools and increased the share of renewable energy in West Africa by over 12 MW PV. This results in 2,514,168 MWh of sustainable power generated and 62,685 tonnes of CO2 emissions reduced per year.

For the health centers that have been powered by our solutions, they can now provide essential care to over 2,500 patient beds, having access to night lighting, refrigeration, cold chain storage, emergency lighting, operating room lighting, X-ray machines and water pumping. Energy is a both a prerequisite and enabler of health; When facilities do not have to worry about a power outage occurring during a procedure or treatment, they can focus on providing healthcare services and treating patients in need, whenever they require care. Moreover, 24-hour power greatly improves the staff’s housing environments; more attractive working environments at rural health care facilities can attract and retain higher quality health workers. 

For the 200+ education facilities that have been powered by our solutions, thousands of students now can learn and study in a safe learning environment. 

For our larger off-takers, and in particular, our flagship project at the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, the advanced microgrid being deployed will generate 2.45 GWh of energy per year and reduce fossil fuel emissions from non-renewable generation methods (e.g. diesel), offsetting 2,600 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. Beyond the post-delivery energy-related benefits, EM-ONE’s project delivery used a sustainable construction approach, taking measures to reduce emissions in the construction process such as reducing the use of cement and re-planting trees around the site. Finally, the Mabushi project results in a 70% reduction in non-renewables and a 40% increase in energy efficiency. These environmental benefits directly result in cost-savings for the client, the Federal Ministry of Works & Housing, because the Advanced Microgrid offsets nearly 1 million litres of diesel per year.  

In conclusion, access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services produce cascading environmental, social, and economic benefits that enable a brighter, high-energy future. EM-ONE is proud to have built a PV footprint over 12 MW and is committed to striving towards SDG 7 as we scale renewables across Africa. 

Please describe how your company is building awareness for the selected SDG

EM-ONE is building awareness for SDG 7 through all channels, internal and external to the company. Within EM-ONE, we have fostered and developed a mission-driven team that is personally connected to the impact we make on improving energy access. In our recruitment practices, we emphasize that our employees feel a personal commitment and call to action when they hear that over 600 million people and one in four healthcare facilities in Africa lack access to reliable power. After ensuring our employees are motivated by the achievement of SDG 7, EM-ONE also invests in building the capacity of our team in Africa through training and re-skilling. Each year, EM-ONE sends its engineering team to Tesla’s factory in Amsterdam to complete training on their battery packs, which are deployed in EM-ONE’s microgrid systems.

Additionally, EM-ONE recognizes that the expertise required to achieve SDG 7 predominantly falls within the STEM field, which experiences a persistent gender gap. In West Africa and Nigeria specifically, where most of the EM-ONE team works, there exists widespread gender inequality; the current make-up of the Nigerian work force excludes valuable female viewpoints, experiences, and skills. However, at EM-ONE we understand that the energy transition and associated societal transformations require the best available talent and the most diverse work force possible to succeed. Thus, to reduce the perpetuation of the gender gap and enable an equitable energy transition, EM-ONE created a female STEM internship programme in 2019. Our programme challenges current barriers to female participation within the STEM field and aims to support the next generation of female energy leaders in achieving SDG 7. 

With regards to EM-ONE’s external efforts to build awareness for SDG 7, our marketing and communication efforts are entirely aligned with educating and promoting SDG 7. EM-ONE aims to be a thought leader, making SDG 7 both accessible and engaging to our audience. To date, EM-ONE has published co-marketing pieces (case studies, articles) with Schneider Electric, Tesla, and SimpliPhi Power, which has expanded our outreach and continuously enables us to play an educator role on SDG 7. Moreover, EM-ONE’s leadership team, in particular our CEO – Mir Islam – regularly participates in conferences, webinars, panels, and radio shows to raise awareness about EM-ONE’s work and progress made towards the achievement of SDG 7. 

In conclusion, in building awareness around SDG 7 EM-ONE employs a coordinated strategy which involves both internal and external activities to ensure alignment and buy-in. Moreover, EM-ONE recognizes the responsibility and privilege of advocating for women to play a leading role in the energy transition. 

Please outline the plans your organization has for being committed to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in response to COVID-19. 

Through COVID-19’s global supply chain disruption and the lack of adequate domestic production capacity, EM-ONE learned that to maintain its commitment to the achievement of SDG 7, our supply chain must be developed as robust and resilient as possible. EM-ONE has therefore committed its efforts to shortening our supply chain and achieving economies of scale in the procurement of solar equipment so (1) goods can be available on-ground and (2) projects can be rapidly deployed when and where they are needed most. EM-ONE is keen to explore possibilities to increase local manufacturing and conduct microgrid system integration locally. This not only contributes to more renewable energy projects but creates a ripple effect of building local manufacturing capacity and creating jobs. 

Beyond optimizing our solution and localizing the supply chain, EM-ONE recognizes that every project deployed reaps data that, together, enables robust data analytics opportunities that can help us remotely control and manage our cumulatively large portfolio of sites. Currently, there are energy data shortcomings – from data gaps to data quality – that make informed decision making difficult. EM-ONE’s long term plan is to extract data from our operating microgrid portfolio that will provide insight into the challenges to scaling microgrids, demand growth patterns, and evolving end-user behavior. In line with the achievement of SDG 7, we aim to leverage lessons learned from deployed projects to make data-drive decisions that incorporate AI and digitalization to reduce the cost of our offering and scale up renewables across Africa.  

To achieve SDG 7 in response to COVID-10, EM-ONE’s short-term plans are to adapt our supply chain and optimize our offering. EM-ONE’s long-term plans are to incorporate digitalization and make data-driven decision. However, what is core to the achievement of any Sustainable Development Goal is partnerships. EM-ONE has developed a strong ecosystem of partners that help us leverage our mutual talents to scale up renewables in West Africa and ensure a swift and robust recovery from COVID-19.

Core to EM-ONE’s solutions are our leading technology partners, who we work with to ensure microgrid systems utilize leading technology components and add lasting value to every system we deploy. One of our long-standing partnerships is with Schneider Electric, who we signed a Memorandum of Understanding to jointly develop and execute projects that will localize and industrialize renewable energy solutions in West Africa. EM-ONE also fosters technology partnerships with providers such as Tesla and Canadian Solar to provide quality microgrid solutions through engineering support, training, and joint bidding. EM-ONE’s Framework Agreement with Tesla has licensed EM-ONE as the sole O&M service provider for their products and supports our portfolio of Advanced Microgrid projects for 2020 in West Africa. EM-ONE also fosters strong relations with our donor partners, such as UK Aid, the EU, USAID, and the World Bank. COVID-19 has prompted EM-ONE to innovate with our donor partners how we frame programs with lessons learned from previous deployments and experience on-ground. 

In conclusion, the coronavirus pandemic forced every person, business and community to rethink how things get done. As everyone adapts to the new normal and navigates a post-pandemic world, EM-ONE understands that the achievement of SDG 7 is more important than ever to recover better for our company and broader society. EM-ONE’s focus on SDG 7 has not wavered due to COVID-19. Rather, our short and long-term planning and partnerships approach have become more resilient and targeted on overcoming challenges and exploiting opportunities posed by the pandemic.