Seattle University Professor Studies Energy in Zambia
Henry Louie, an IEEE Senior Member and Assistant Professor at Seattle University, is working to solve Zambia’s energy problems. Less than 5% of rural Zambian’s have electricity and in cities, just 20%. Louie, who is a member of the IEEE Smart Village executive committee and a Fulbright Scholar, has been living and working in Zambia to research the effects of electricity.
It all started when Zambia began a load-shedding program, which stops power delivery at planned times. Louie arrived just two months later to teach engineering at the Copperbelt University in Kitwe.
“It’s been interesting to live here and adapt my life to not having electricity for a third of the day,” Louie told the institute. “I really wanted to experience teaching engineering in Zambia to broaden my horizons.”
Louie is a power engineer with a humanitarian bent, and he has spent a few weeks in Zambia every year since 2009 to research how electricity affects lives. Then, in January 2015, he founded the nonprofit Kilowatts for Humanity, which has the goal to end energy poverty in the world.
Henry Louie’s Work
Using his Fulbright Scholarship, Louie has evaluated the effectiveness of Zambia’s load-shedding program in conserving energy. He and his team have surveyed more than 200 households to analyze energy use. He found that it wasn’t fixing the problem. Most families merely shifted their energy consumption to when it was available, or they switched to charcoal to cook and diesel generators for power, which added greater pollution and costs than electricity.
In fact, in some houses, he recognized an increase in energy consumption.
“By comparing survey data with hard data from the national utility company ZESCO, we will evaluate whether the program is actually saving energy,” he said. The full results of his study will be revealed at the IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference this October in Seattle. Louie hopes the data will help the Zambian government come up with a better solution.