HEDERA & RESEARCH: Translating research results into practical solutions for sustainable development

We aim to bridge the gap between academia and the private sector by facilitating collaboration between the two and inter-linking all inclusive finance stakeholders. Since HEDERA’s inception, which entailed translating research results into concrete action on the ground and culminated in the formation of a start-up enterprise, we have believed in the power of research and its importance in the development of our society.

In this page, you can explore our research-related work, including our topics of interest, research papers, supervised theses, research partners, and current research needs. We invite researchers to connect and join us in this journey.


Since its inception, HEDERA has had a strong relationship with the academic sector. The concept for HEDERA, particularly the HEDERA Impact Toolkit (HIT), came out of HEDERA Co-Founder and CEO Natalia Realpe Carrillo’s PhD on energy access measurement.
In her PhD, Natalia developed the Progress out of Energy Poverty Index (PEPI) toolkit. The PEPI builds upon the World Bank’s Multi-Tier Framework (MTF) for Energy Access Assessment, based on a multidimensional approach to evaluating the usage of energy services. Tailoring the framework and the survey to be used in the microfinance industry, the PEPI has been designed to track the progress towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 at the household level.
HIT integrates PEPI with its methodology of locally-driven crowdsourcing of field data and software solutions for data analysis & reporting for the assessment of SDG7.
The other three co-founders also have strong academic backgrounds; Alfonso Caiazzo has a PhD in applied mathematics, and Lilo Wagner has a PhD in economics. Alberto Diaz-Durana is currently undertaking his PhD using data collected through HIT.


Energy Access Analysis in The Democratic Republic of the Congo
Kitutu, Congo

The objective of this project is to analyze access to energy (electricity and cooking solution) in rural areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The study has been implemented by APIDE, a local NGO working in the regions of Kitutu, Kaituga, and Mwenga, in the eastern part of the country, about 150 km from the border with Burundi and Rwanda.

See the study.

Needs Assessment: Rejuvenating Pueblo Viejo
Pueblo Viejo, Magdalena, Colombia

Rejuvenating Pueblo Viejo is an initiative of the Universidad del Magdalena Chair of Sustainability 2019-II that aims to develop students’ basic competencies in sustainability and innovation by having them work on social, economic, and environmental problems related to sustainable development.

The project works with children, youth, and adolescents from municipal schools in Pueblo Viejo (in the department of Magdalena), aiming at integrating their ideas, initiatives, and contributions into the municipal urban and territorial planning of Pueblo Viejo. The project will use HEDERA Impact Toolkit to assess the needs of the population and monitor progress over time.

Contact: sostenibilidad@unimagdalena.edu.co
Download the project presentation (Spanish)


A Decentralized Approach for Assessing Energy Access at the Household Level to Monitor and Maximize the Impact of Inclusive Finance Towards SDG7
Realpe, N., Wagner, L., Diaz-Durana, A., Caiazzo, A. (2019)

Abstract: Assessing the progress towards SDG7 requires a detailed analysis of energy needs and energy access at the individual household level. This paper examines the effectiveness of the application of the Multi-Tier Framework (introduced by The World Bank), in combination with mobile data collection tools optimized for the microfinance industry, for such assessment. Decentralized data collection is commonly used for internal evaluation purposes. It is possible to integrate these procedures into the acquisition of information related to clients’ energy needs, as well as report the impact on SDG7 based on the collected data, using the latest standard indicators. This innovative approach is discussed in terms of cost reduction, feasibility, and quality of information, as well as its potential for large scale implementation, based on preliminary test implementation in Latin America and Africa.

Keywords: Energy access; Multi-Tier Framework; data collection; impact assessment.

Our paper was presented during the Research Meets Africa conference 2019, organized by ADA in the framework of the African Microfinance Week (SAM: Semain aricaine de la microfinance) in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. You can download the paper here.


Alberto Diaz-Durana
PhD Candidate at Technical University Berlin, Faculty III Process Sciences, Institute for Energy Engineering, Berlin, Germany
Prediction of Cost-Efficient Measures to Improve Energy Access for Populations Living in Energy Poverty Using Modern Methods of Information Technology

Abstract: This research focuses on developing a methodology using information technology tools and data analysis to identify specific cost-effective measures that could provide households in conditions of energy poverty better access to energy.
The methodology consists of analyzing a dataset of 10.000 households and 1.200 variables to identify the characteristics of households adopting clean technologies. Furthermore, emerging impacts of clean technologies are evaluated, and, finally, a predictive model to assess the potential for households to move into a higher tier of energy access is proposed. 
Identifying ways to use data to drive impact has become possible through advances in computational and data technology.
The approach presented in this research will include a combination of an iterative process between statistical analysis and data analysis, known as data science. The data is analyzed using information technology tools such as Python and its open source libraries and frameworks for machine learning and data analysis.
The energy supply of populations living in energy poverty is described by characterizing households’ energy access, which is determined through a set of attributes that capture key dimensions of energy supply as defined by the Multi-Tier Framework (MTF). The MTF is a methodology developed by the World Bank to understand what prevents a household from moving to a higher tier of access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy in alignment with Sustainable Development Goal 7.
This research compares two approaches: (i) classifying the dataset according to the MTF by using the HEDERA Impact Toolkit, an energy access assessment tool developed by HEDERA Sustainable Solutions and (ii) classifying the dataset based on unsupervised machine learning methodologies to cluster similar households according to the 1.200 variables.
Households with similar features grouped into a common cluster as in (ii) may show different tier levels according to the classification described in the MTF as in (i). This difference in the two approaches (i) and (ii) enables the determination of specific sets of variables or features that, when provided to households in the same cluster, but at a lower tier, could enable an improvement in tier and ultimately better energy access.

Keywords: Energy planning; energy access; sustainability; data analysis; machine learning

Hillary Kipkoech Korir
Master Thesis at the Pan African University Institute for Water and Energy Sciences (including Climate Change), Msc. Energy Policy, Tlemcen, Algeria
Energy Access and Impact Analysis of Biogas Harnessing on Mau Forest Conservation

Abstract: Forests as a source of energy are important in many countries, especially in rural areas in sub-Saharan African countries, where the availability of wood fuel is literally a necessity for survival. These countries rely heavily on wood as a source of energy, especially for heating and cooking, and most of them are struggling to maintain their forests in the face of growing populations and weak economies.
The Mau Forest Complex sits within Kenya’s Rift Valley and is the largest indigenous montane forest in East Africa, but human activity, including agriculture, logging, and settlement construction, has reduced the Mau Forest to a quarter of what it once was, disrupting the forest’s role in storing and distributing water to outlying areas.
This study aims at evaluating energy access and the impact of biogas harnessing for home cooking on Mau forest conservation and communities living next to the forest and proposing appropriate recommendations.
The area of study was in southwestern Mau, where data collection was done in the regions of Chebangang, Nyangores, Londiani, and Olenguruone.

Data collection was facilitated by use of the HEDERA collect mobile app with an inbuilt questionnaire. The results obtained were generalized to represent the whole Mau Complex. Electricity sources and cooking fuels were evaluated using the Multi-Tier Framework methodology.

Ninety percent of the electricity sources used by the population were categorized in Tier 1, while 37.6% of cooking fuels used by the population were categorized in Tier 1 and Tier 2.
Knowledge of biogas technology was found to be very low, with only 24% of the population knowledgeable about it. With a Pearson coefficient of 0.85, the relationship between the level of education and choice of cookstove was concluded to be independent. Analyzing energy demand in the region based on the Business-As-Usual scenario (BAU), cooking energy demand will triple by the year 2040, and firewood will remain the primary cooking fuel, thus putting pressure on forest resources.
It was concluded that adoption of biogas technology in the region will promote livestock intensification and reduce household firewood use by half. It was recommended that priority be given to awareness campaigns on modern cookstoves and biogas technology in the region. County governments, national government ministries in charge of rural electrification, and non-governmental organizations in the region should be the major stakeholders in creating awareness.

Keywords: Multi-Tier Framework, HEDERA, biogas technology, energy demand, LEAP

Sarpong Hammond Antwi
Master Thesis at the Pan African University Institute for Water and Energy Sciences (including Climate Change), Msc. Energy Policy, Tlemcen, Algeria

Abstract: Niger possesses a vast amount of renewable energy potential but still faces numerous challenges in its energy sector, with the horrid effects of climate change also escalating the socio-economic predicaments of the country. Studies have revealed community acceptability as one approach to resolving such energy crises; however, acceptability is narrowly being discussed, especially within the context of African communities.
The study aims to, therefore, understand the factors that influence the acceptability of renewable energy and its implications on climate change actions in the Sekoukou community in Niger, where there is a dearth of electricity and clean cooking solutions.
The various methods and techniques deployed for this study included observations, focus group discussions, a gender sensitivity analysis, and 50 household interviews aided by the HEDERA collect mobile app.

An assumption from a cross-tabulation test indicates that there is no significant statistical difference between occupation, household head, and energy preferences. The gender sensitivity analysis also reveals the strong desire of men and women to participate in climate change adaptation and mitigation programmes in the community.
These results imply that a renewable energy financial model that targets the poorest of the poor and education to break the sociopsychological ties to firewood are needed to influence acceptance of renewable energy in Sekoukou.
Gender integration in the energy planning process and alternative livelihood activities to improve the purchasing power of the community are two of the recommendations made in this study. Additionally, further adjustment in Niger’s policy framework towards universal energy by 2030 is required to attract investors to the sector.
For further studies, a focus on communities and households across different localities and countries in Africa will be beneficial to help bolster the findings and conclusions of this present study.  

Keywords: Renewable energy, climate change, community acceptability, gender mainstreaming, Niger

Andrea Ruíz López
Master Thesis at the Technical University Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Techno-economic analysis of decentralized photovoltaic systems and the potential improvement of the energy access level of communities in rural areas: A case study in La Sierra, Colombia

Abstract: Energy poverty and climate justice are two major challenges in developing countries that need to be tackled to achieve sustainable development. Developing countries are often the most vulnerable when it comes to natural disasters that worsen the infrastructure, energy services, and food security. Assessing energy needs at the regional and national level is crucial to identifying proper policies that help tackle current challenges and reach national targets. Underdeveloped and neglected rural areas affected by energy poverty with heterogeneous characteristics make it hard to standardize their energy needs assessment and find sustainable solutions to improve their energy access level.
The development of multidimensional metrics, such as the Multi-Tier Framework (MTF), represents a major improvement by providing a methodology to monitor important attributes of energy access in rural areas, such as affordability and reliability.
For this purpose, the toolkit developed by HEDERA to gather household data and measure the energy access level is used in the community of La Sierra, Colombia. The household data gathered is analyzed and implemented in the RAMP open source model to generate realistic load demand profiles.
The development of this high-resolution bottom-up stochastic model in combination with the linear optimization model offgridders enables the simulation of the potential of decentralized renewable energy technologies. By modeling small photovoltaic systems with batteries according to each region and household type, the potential improvement in the energy access level can be estimated. Furthermore, the natural variability of renewable energy sources and unpredictable evolution of the electricity demand is addressed through a sensitivity analysis. The robust sizing resulting from the model coupling enables the feasibility analysis of all potential demand scenarios, taking different system configurations and degrees of adoption of electric appliances for several household types into consideration.
Contact Andrea for more information.


Rural Energy Supply
Dr.-Ing. Natalia Realpe Carrillo
Pan African University – Institute of Water and Energy Sciences (PAUWES)

This course aims to provide students knowledge of renewable energy (RE) technologies used for off-grid applications and will cover stand-alone solutions, as well as hybrid-systems consisting of different RE technologies or in combination with diesel generators or storage systems. Students will learn about the technologies, hybrid systems, and micro-grids. After focusing on the technologies, system design, and case studies, non-technical aspects like market development, regional trends, and economics will be examined. More specifically, the course topics include: RE technologies for off-grid applications: off-grid photovoltaics, small-scale wind energy, and small-scale biogas; fields of application; mini-grid design: AC coupled mini-grids, project planning, and system sizing; case studies; economics and financing; software overview; introduction to HOMER software and exercises in system design & electricity costs.
The teaching approach combines theory with exercises and discussions relevant for an energy policy career. The target group is master’s students in the Energy Policy track.

Information Technology for Energy Access in the Microfinance Sphere
Dr.-Ing. Natalia Realpe Carrillo & Alberto Diaz-Durana, Msc.
TU Berlin – Campus El Gouna

In the era of digitization, data analysis has become a fundamental asset in any entrepreneurial project. Comprehending the value of data’s hidden potential requires an understanding of the processes needed to make data useful. In order to work with data, certain technical infrastructure is needed, in which different IT technologies play different fundamental roles. Multiple agents are actively involved in the process of collecting the data and converting it into insightful information. Knowledge and understanding of the different stages and technologies in data processing are crucial for the creation of innovative business ideas. In the context of the economic factors that determine the market dynamics within the microfinance sphere, the value of data, IT infrastructure, and IT products will be presented through real case studies.


“Fostering Energy Access Research in Africa – EU & Africa Researchers”, November 2019, Berlin

HEDERA facilitated the organization of an international workshop entitled “Fostering Energy Access Research in Africa – EU & Africa Researchers”, sponsored by TU Berlin’s Seed Funding for the Global South program, in November 2019.
The purpose of the workshop was to develop a common vision of collaborative research focused on assessing and securing access to renewable energy in Sub-Saharan Africa in innovative and sustainable ways, bringing together several European and African institutions: TU Berlin Institute for Energy Engineering - Prof. Tetyana Morozyuk, RWI Essen (Germany) - Dr. Gunther Bensch, University of Geneva - Geneva Finance Research Institute (Switzerland) - Prof. Bernd Balkenhol, African Center of Excellence - Energy for Sustainable Development (Rwanda) - Prof. Etienne Ntagwirumugara, Pan African University - Institute of Water and Energy Sciences (including Climate Change) (Algeria) - Prof. Chewki Ziani Cherif, Jomo Kenyatta University (Kenya) - Prof. John Gitonga Githiri, and Sustainable Development Goals Center for Africa (Rwanda) - Dr. Tekalign Tsige Sahilu.


We offer the opportunity to pursue Bachelor and Master theses in the area of sustainable development and impact assessment. Possible topics include:

  • Evaluating energy efficiency as an MTF parameter
  • Audio recognition for data analysis

Interested? Please send your application via email to team@hedera.online.


If you would like to explore a potential partnership with HEDERA, please feel free to contact us at contact@hedera.online.