A global competition to develop scalable solutions to energy poverty.

Introducing IEEE Empower a Billion Lives

IEEE Empower a Billion Lives is a global competition aimed at fostering innovation to develop solutions to electricity access. Solutions are expected to be scalable, regionally relevant, holistic, and leverage 21st century technologies with exponentially declining prices.

Courtesy of USAID

Energy access is a global challenge

There are 3 billion people in the world living in energy poverty, and over 1 billion people without any access to electricity. So far, only 1.8 million people have gained tier 2 energy access by using off-grid electric services.

To address energy poverty, more of the same may not be the answer. New strategies are needed to scale energy access solutions 1000x.

Courtesy of USAID

Energy access means opportunity

Access to electricity is critical to health care delivery and to the overarching goal of universal health coverage. The WHO defines access to essential medicines and technologies as one of the key factors in ensuring universal health coverage. Most of these essential technologies require electricity, and without electricity, many health care interventions simply cannot be provided. Despite this, a study found that only 26% of health facilities in the Sub-Saharan Africa has access to reliable electricity.


Courtesy of Path Global Health

Water is the most essential element of life; it is required for basic sustenance, health, and a irrigation. Nearly one billion people do not have access to clean, safe water. The United Nations estimates that Sub-Saharan Africa alone loses 40 billion hours per year collecting water; that's the same as a whole year's worth of labor by France's entire workforce! Electrical pumps are the most effective method to alleviate this crisis and provide clean and safe water for all.


Education is widely recognized as one of the most essential components for poverty reduction. According to UNDESA, about 90% of children in Sub-Saharan Africa go to primary schools that lack electricity, while 27% of village schools in India lack electricity access, thus not being able to operate electric lights, refrigerators, fans, computers, and printers. Electrified schools outperform non-electrified schools on key educational indicators, have better staff retention, and can in some cases enable broader social and economic development of communities.


Courtesy of USAID

For more than a billion people worldwide, kerosene lamps are the primary lighting source, which is expensive, unsafe and carcinogenic. The World Bank estimates that breathing kerosene fumes is the equivalent of smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, and 66% of adult females with lung cancer in developing nations are nonsmokers.


Courtesy of US Government

Electricity is a key component of economic empowerment. Electricity can increase household per capita income by 39 percent. Businesses operate at higher levels of productivity, farmers can run cleaner irrigation systems and processing machines that improve their yields and thus, their income.


Courtesy of US Government

Courtesy of US Government

A different type of competition

The IEEE Empower a Billion Lives competition is agnostic to energy sources, technologies, and business models. Solutions will be evaluated on both their technical innovation and business viability to rapidly and sustainably scale to one billion customers.

The competition is completely open to all, including student groups, small- and medium-sized companies, research labs, international corporations, and non-profit organizations.

The competition is organized by IEEE, an all-volunteer organization whose goal is to foster technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity.

Competition supporters


  • Online round

    May 1, 2018 to Aug 31, 2018

    Registered teams present their solution concept and a three-minute pitch video.

  • Regional rounds

    Nov 2018 to Jan 2019

    Qualified teams demonstrate their solution prototypes and pitch their business ideas at a regional round nearest to them (see map). For more information, visit the competitors page.

  • Field test

    Qualified teams complete a minimum 2 week long field pilot in a region of their choosing.

  • Global Final

    Sep 28, 2019 to Oct 1, 2019

    IEEE ECCE Conference

    Qualified teams demonstrate the ruggedized prototypes, field test results, and final business plan.

Join the competition

Get started by forming a team and submitting your project.


Get involved by supporting the competition.