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Chemonics News

News: Chemonics’ Sri Lanka Energy Program Wins 2024 SID-US Innovation Competition

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SID-US recognized the USAID Sri Lanka Energy Program’s use of electric vehicle battery swapping stations with the popular vote award in their annual innovation competition.

At this year’s 2024 Society for International Development – United States (SID-US) Annual Conference, more than 1,500 in-person and virtual attendees had the opportunity to learn about and vote on four innovative approaches being used to drive sustainable development worldwide. In a field of inspiring innovations, participants selected the USAID-funded Sri Lanka Energy Program implemented by Chemonics as the popular vote winner for their promotion of solar-charged electric vehicle battery swapping stations to increase access to reliable, green technology for gig drivers.

Since 2022, Sri Lanka has struggled with high levels of unemployment, foreign currency shortages, and import restrictions on essential goods like food and fuel. In the face of this economic uncertainty, finding affordable and reliable means of transportation has become a pressing issue. Although electric vehicles offer a potential remedy, the high upfront costs prevented widespread adoption. By partnering with private sector leaders like Sling Mobility and Uber Eats, the Sri Lanka Energy Program supported the creation of more than 20 charging stations around the capital city of Colombo. This innovative approach allowed gig drivers, including many women, to more easily charge the batteries for their electric vehicles and continue working.

These stations, strategically located away from the roadside in places with reliable renewable power sources, dramatically reduce gig drivers’ initial costs of using electric vehicles by approximately 60%. Drivers can use a cloud-based software application to track which stations have charged batteries or vehicles available, allowing them to plan accordingly and save time. These stations are also an important component in supporting Sri Lanka’s move away from costly fossil fuels to e-mobility, highlighting the country’s commitment to the sustainable energy transition. The app enables gig drivers to estimate, verify, and monetize their carbon offsets. Kosala Gunawardana, advanced energy technologies specialist, reflected on this innovation, saying, “We are confident that this multifaceted approach will significantly contribute to fostering a greener, cleaner, happier life for all. It offers a beacon of hope in a challenging time.”

This win marks the fourth SID-US innovation contest award in five years for a Chemonics-implemented program. Saeed Uri, senior vice president of Chemonics’ Impact Lab, reiterated the importance of innovation, saying, “As sustainable development practitioners, it is our responsibility to ensure we are leveraging the best ideas out there to drive impact.”In 2022, the Lebanon Community Support Program received the people’s choice award for their support to municipalities using solar solutions for water, street lighting, agriculture, and other services. In 2021, the USAID Agriculture Growing Rural Opportunities (AGRO) won the judge’s choice award for its Vkursi Zemli platform, which simplifies, accelerates, and improves access to funding for Ukrainian farmers. Three projects, the Syria Injaz II program, AGRO, and the Human Resources for Health in 2030 program were recognized in 2020. Chemonics is proud that AGRO, in partnership with the Ukrainian Society of Soil Scientists and Agrochemists, was also a finalist in this year’s competition for their groundbreaking use of sediment to revive agricultural fields.