Informal settlements (commonly known as slums) – home to nearly half of sub-Saharan Africa’s urban population – face persistent inequities in the accessibility, reliability, quality, safety, and affordability of electricity service. Further, they face structural barriers to securing legal access to the electricity grid. This has created a complex informal electricity resale market of unmetered connections controlled by landlords and informal electricians, providing a marginal level of grid access and engendering new vulnerabilities. Illegally tapping into nearby distribution infrastructure results in numerous fatalities from electrocution, leaves households vulnerable to exploitation by intermediaries, costs utilities millions of dollars annually, and destabilizes the local power grid. In this talk, I will present some early findings from remote monitoring of power quality and reliability conducted in 25 informal settlements in Kampala by Spotlight Kampala – a research initiative aiming to offer actionable insight into access challenges in informal communities Kampala. The broad objectives of the projects are to gain insight into how community members meet their energy needs, the prevalence of informal connections, and for households and businesses that are connected (either formally, informally, or both), is their connection safe, reliable, high-quality, and affordable?
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June Lukuyu is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Washington. She recently received her Ph.D. in ECE at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and an M.Sc. in Renewable Energy Systems Technologies from Loughborough University. Her research focuses on how to develop and plan for inclusive and sustainable energy systems and technologies for underserved communities, centering on promoting social development, sustainability, and human empowerment.