WISIONS – THE MINIGRID GAME COMMUNITY WORKSHOPS
The Energy Action Partners team spent a total of eight days (including workshop days) in the villages, with five days prior to the workshops spent on visiting households to conduct social mapping activities. Energy Action Partners team visited households to conduct social mapping activities that helped provide a better understanding of the local context, issues and challenges. The information gained was used to help calibrate game parameters and guide the game-play process during the workshops. With assistance from local residents in the villages, the Energy Action Partners team visited households and conducted informal discussions.
The three villages are located in the Ulu Papar area of Penampang, Sabah and are approximately a two to three-hour drive on a logging track in a four-wheel drive vehicle from the nearest town of Donggongon. The villages are also connected by jungle trails, and traveling between them on foot takes approximately two to three hours. The team was hosted in homestays in the local villages during the eight days.
Minigrid Game Workshop
The village workshops were facilitated by two members from the Energy Action Partners team, while a third team member took video recordings and provided technical support for the Game. A main facilitator led instruction and discussions, while playing the role of Game operator. The other facilitator supported and assisted participants while the Game and discussions progressed.
The village workshops lasted approximately 2-3 hours and began with a brief introduction on The Minigrid Game, its objectives and the game-play process. The participants were then grouped into teams which acted as ‘households’ in the Game. Teams consisted of 2-3 participants and were provided with a netbook preloaded with the software for gameplay. Each team was given two sheets to fill in with information such as their team name, household size, a starting household budget used to purchase appliances in the game, and their monthly income.
The starting household budget and monthly income varied for each team. The amounts were proposed by the facilitators (based on information from the earlier mapping activity) and decided on by the communities. These numbers were then entered into the game
As Kg. Buayan and Kg. Terian both have experience utilizing micro-hydro systems, the two communities’ participants familiarised themselves with the game’s user interface and game play process faster than Kg. Timpayasa’s participants. They easily understood (individual vs community) load profiles and showed a higher interest in testing payment systems and different tariff rates against levels of consumption.
Kg. Buayan expressed interest in upgrading their pre-paid meters to smart meters that would display similar information to the game’s user interface such as load profiles and real-time energy use. This would better enable real-time monitoring and control of their energy usage. A topic that came up in discussions with participants from Kg. Buayan and Kg. Terian was the possibility of testing out a hybrid solar and micro-hydro system with storage using the game, to overcome their existing micro-hydro system’s limited power supply during the drought seasons.
Kg. Timpayasa’s participants, having never experienced a minigrid system, spent the first half of the workshop estimating and understanding their electricity consumption and load profiles, before moving on to test out different payment and tariff rates. Based on their understanding of Kg. Buayan and Kg. Terians’ micro-hydro systems, Kg. Timpayasa participants expressed that they did not think that they would be able to maintain and manage a micro-hydro system as their households are separated by distances greater than in Buayan and Terian, but they liked the fact that a community micro-grid would enable payments into a shared fund. They are interested in the possibility of having a shared community fund even if they used individual systems
The main objective of the workshop is to incorporate engagement and increase understanding of participants on different aspects of minigrid management. Namely, to understand individual versus community power consumption, recognising the limitation of a minigrid’s capacity, household energy budgeting and system cost recovery. Similarly, by understanding all of these different aspects and collaborating to make collective decisions in minigrid planning, participants are able to fathom the complexities of resource management. The game was well received and appeared to achieve workshop objectives. The communities found the gaming process novel, interesting, engaging, and fun. The workshop supported the idea that there is a strong demand and market for tools like The Minigrid Game as a participatory engagement tool that focuses on the technical, financial, and regulatory challenges. A lack of community engagement leads to poor program design, no local maintenance, system abandonment, wasted resources and limited community benefit; hence, providing a need to disseminate approaches that focus heavily on engaging communities.