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SMEs, communities to benefit from ICE renewable energy system

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ICE Commercial Power, a Nigerian-based renewable energy provider, says it is targeting SMEs and underserved communities by providing them electricity with its renewable energy system.

Emmanuel Ekwueme, CEO at ICE Commercial Power explained that many of Nigeria’s SMEs rely on using generators to provide power, but these machines can be unreliable, and the fuel and maintenance costs are high.

“Modern renewable power options can bring electricity and development opportunities to areas that have never enjoyed those benefits, spur economic and industrial growth, and support increased growth across the continent.

He said ICE Commercial Power develops solar energy projects that allow small businesses and underserved communities to connect to reliable and affordable clean energy, monitor their energy usage online and better manage their power consumption.

“Our work on the Ignite programme has led to the digital upskilling of 47 youth to canvass three communities and identified 12,885 underserved microbusinesses for deployment.

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On the company’s partnership with Microsoft, Ekwueme said it has enabled ICE to adopt technology-driven solutions to the major business challenges identified during their pilot phase.

“Microsoft’s support includes business development, technical support with the Azure platform and go-to-market strategies.

“ICE developed Ignite, a hybrid youth digital upskilling fellowship programme to train unemployed youth to collect hyperlocal geospatial and demographic data at scale from underserved last-mile communities.

“This grassroots approach streamlines the ICE go-to-market strategy while preparing unemployed youth for the future of work. During the programme, Ignite fellows receive digital upskilling and participate in data collection exercises.

“The data collected is analysed by a custom machine learning algorithm and results in a list of ranked and prioritized project sites for deployment. During the pilot programme for Ignite, ICE successfully leveraged Azure Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence tools to quickly source and identify over 12,000 small businesses that could benefit from the ICE solution.

On post installation, Ekwueme revealed that a major technology component of the ICE operation involves utilising cloud-connected solar equipment to help facilitate remote monitoring and maintenance.

 “Microsoft Azure and its associated tools and versatile Cloud solution supported ICE’s pre-installation work, implementing an effective data-driven go-to-market strategy. Post-installation, Azure manages the entire portfolio of cloud-connected solar microgrids,” he added.

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ICE has made a significant impact in the time they have worked with Microsoft. “Our partnership with Microsoft and the access to Microsoft tools and developer teams has been very, very beneficial,” says ICE Commercial Power co-founder, Maxwell Okperi.

“A typical example is Microsoft Teams, which allows me access anywhere in the world to reach out to my team and monitor day-to-day operations. With the Azure platform, I can monitor business operations, and I can track all the data I need to track, I can monitor revenue, I can even predict when I will have maintenance callouts,” he comments.

“This approach significantly simplified our maintenance and operations workflow. Specifically, it has streamlined payment collections from up to 12 different modes of payment to one single, user-friendly USSD workflow. This has also contributed to a notable 48% decrease in recurring maintenance calls that require human intervention,” says Ekwueme.

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