National Geographic helped advance the cause of sustainable energy for off-grid communities by crowning the winners of the Terra Watt Prize — the first competition of its kind — on June 11 in Washington, D.C. As torchbearers for cleaner, safer, and cheaper energy alternatives for the global poor, co-champions Mera Gao Micro Grid Power (MGP) and EGG-energy Tanzania Limited (EGG) beat out over 50 other teams to split $250,000 in grant money to implement their winning ideas.
MGP, headed by India-based Nikhil Jaisinghani, used its extensive experience building, owning, and operating low-cost, solar-powered microgrids to edge out the competition with its innovative proposal to provide poor, off-grid communities with quality indoor lighting and telephone-charging services in Uttar Pradesh, India. MGP will use its $125,000 prize money to set up 140 microgrids, each providing power to roughly 25 households for up to seven hours per night.
EGG, which currently provides affordable, clean-energy solutions to rural communities in Tanzania, impressed the judges with its proposal to install mobile-connected, rent-to-own solar systems in Tanzania’s Tanga region. EGG’s co-founder Jamie Yang developed an integrated IT system that allows customers to make payments via mobile money and provides remote diagnostics to troubleshoot system problems.