Digital Energy Challenge For Utilities - Annual Call for Projects

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Digital Energy Challenge For Utilities - Annual Call for Projects
The Digital Energy Facility has launched an annual Call for Projects as part of a four-year Digital Energy Challenge running from 2021 to 2024. The Call for Projects for Utilities is open to public power utilities in partnership with an innovative technology/service provider.

The 2022 Call for Projects will open on March 1st 2022. For this year's edition, the geographical scope will be extended to the whole of Africa and different themes will be proposed. If you wish to be added to our mailing list for this next edition, please click here. The information on the rest of this page refers to the 2021 edition. Check out the 2021 edition here and discover the awardees here.

The four-year Challenge will support the development of innovative digital solutions for better energy access and power grid performance improvement, a key element of the Digital Energy Facility’s overall strategy.



1st March 2022 - 2022 Call for Projects opens 

Who can apply?

The 2021 Challenge for Utilities is open to projects owned by sub-Saharan African public electricity power utilities (including public Independent System Operators, power pools, regional organisations, energy regulators, rural electrification authorities and public organisations in charge of biomass resource preservation) in a partnership with an innovative technology/service provider.

As a reminder, the three themes of the 2021 edition were:


Universal Energy AccessUniversal energy access such as innovative off-grid solutions (mini/micro grids with energy management or storage systems for optimal use of clean, renewable energy, interconnections with the main grid or micro grids, energy metering or revenue collection); stand-alone systems (solar kiosks or kits); on-grid solutions (power capacity optimisation tools, grid extension tools, tools to increase customer connections). 


Quality Service ManagementImprovement of grid management and quality of service for reduction of losses and power outages such as digital tools that: reduce technical or non-technical losses (blackout risk analysis, reduction or management), improve power supply continuity or enhance quality service management.  



High Rate RenewableSolutions enabling a high integration rate of renewable energy (RE) into the power system such as digital tools to connect RE to grid, manage RE production sites, implement interconnection dynamic line rating, mix renewable and non-renewable sources to optimize RE use, control and manage grid flexibility and stability, connect/disconnect RE capacities, forecast RE production or other services to the grid needed for higher RE penetration.


Benefits for Challenge winners

For every annual Call for Projects, 2-3 winning utility partnerships will each benefit from:

  • A grant of €100K-€700K to support costs for equipment, software, products and services provided by the innovative technology/service provider, and training.
  • Technical assistance for project management assistance, strategic and technical expertise.

In addition, both utility partnership and start-up winners can take advantage of:

  • A joint boot camp run by cross-sectorial experts, which will support project implementation, provide sectorial insights, foster synergies between project winners and encourage best-practice sharing
  • Widespread communication campaigns piloted by AFD during the selection phase, award ceremony, bootcamp and for a period of time after these events.


Eligibility Criteria for utilities

The project owner must be a sub-Saharan African public electricity power utility or organisation. This definition includes public ISO (Independent System Operators), power pools, regional organisations, energy regulators, rural electrification authorities and public organisations in charge of biomass resource preservation.

The project owner must be in a partnership with a technology/service provider who must meet the following criteria:

  • Less than 15 years existence or have already developed an innovative solution to be tested
  • National or international registered company
  • More than 5 employees
  • Annual turnover of less than €50M

The collaborative project must have digital technology as a core element (telecom, computer or cloud-based technology); be innovative either intrinsically or in relation to the local market/country; and be local i.e. have project management activities in the country where the project is based. 

Eligible Sub-Saharan African countries (2021 edition)

Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo Democratic Republic, Congo Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

How to apply?

1. Download the Utilities Application Pack (email address required)

2. Watch the information webinar recording from 28th April here

3. Complete the application form and prepare the required documents 

4. Submit your project before 16th July 2021 23:59 CET

Key dates & Application Support

  • Launch of the Call for Projects: 6th April 2021
  • Deadline for submission: 16th July 2021 23:59 CET
  • Announcement of results: September-October 2021

For more information:
  • Watch the information webinar recording from the 28th April here
  • Consult the FAQ which will be updated regularly
  • Join the Challenge mailing list and ask any questions by contacting us

Download the Challenge brochure