News - T. Robert Fetter

Unreliable energy access presents additional challenges to developing countries responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rob Fetter told Energy Voice that off-grid solutions could be implemented relatively quickly to help address the issue.

Electricity enables health systems to detect, prevent, and treat infectious diseases. But nearly a quarter of health clinics in sub-Saharan Africa lack power, and only 28 percent actually have reliable supplies. The Energy Access Project's Rob Fetter and Jonathan Phillips write that there is a critical opportunity to make health facility electrification a central pillar of both near-term response to COVID-19 and longer-term efforts aimed at economic recovery and enhanced resiliency in this region.

A new blog post for the Brookings Institution—co-authored by the Duke Energy Access Project's Rob Fetter—addresses the importance of reliable electricity access for monitoring and treatment of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, in sub-Saharan Africa. The post highlights the value of off-grid solutions for health clinics far from the central grid, among other elements.

Developers, donors, and customers are increasingly interested in the potential for microgrids to provide power to hundreds of millions of people who lack it, particularly in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Microgrids offer the right combination of affordability, reliability, and capacity to service areas that need more power than a home solar panel can provide, but do not have enough load density for the central grid.

According to USAID, only 4 percent of people in rural Zambia has access to power. As a part of an interdisciplinary team called Bass Connections, a Duke University student team has spent the past academic year trying to get a better understanding of the barriers to energy investment there.

The Duke University Energy Access Project aims to help achieve the United Nation’s (U.N.) seventh Sustainable Development Goal, which is to ensure universal access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services by 2030.

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions’ Catalyst Program aims to build on the Nicholas Institute’s mission by increasing engagement with Duke University faculty to incubate and advance new partnerships, enhance policy-relevant knowledge, and create innovative policy solutions based on new creative synergies.

A Bass Connections team that includes the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions T. Robert Fetter took top honors for work using machine learning and visual object identification to assess electricity access at the 2018 Duke Research Computing Symposium on Jan. 25.