IEEE PELS launched the IEEE Empower a Billion Lives(EBL-I) in 2018, as a recurring global competition for teams to develop and demonstrate solutions to energy access, and to articulate business models for scaling these solutions. Over 450 teams from 70 countries participated in events that included 5 regional competitions (China, India, Africa, Europe, and US), field demonstrations (in Rwanda, Uganda, Malaysia, Nepal, India, Tanzania, China, Nigeria, Cambodia, Singapore, Madagascar, Kenya, and the Ivory Coast), ending with a global final in Baltimore in October 2019.

Over $500,000 was provided in awards and team support, including a $100,000 grand prize to team SoULS from IIT Bombay for an innovative model of Energy Swaraj (energy self-sustainability) based on marrying advanced industrial supply chain principles with a program to boost self-reliance for local women through training, jobs and entrepreneurship. Other global winners include XPower, Reeddi, Entrepreneurs du Monde and Okra, SolarWorx, and Havenhill Synergy.