What is Umeme Jamii?
'Umeme Jamii' is a combination of two Swahili words 'umeme' which translates into 'electricity or lighting' and 'jamii' which translates into 'community or society'. The term Umeme Jamii was coined by the Energy Change Lab to refer to the 'swarm electricity' model; we call it crowdgrid. This model gives communities control over their energy costs (and potential revenue) and, importantly, provides energy for productive use with possibilities for income generation.
How does a crowd grid work?
The Energy Change Lab has explored alternative electrification strategies that allow people to progressively upgrade their local energy supply, and to become ‘prosumers’, by selling the excess energy they produce to their neighbours. Energy capacity in villages with solar home systems (SHS) can increase if independent SHS start connecting to and building on each other, becoming an intertwined system.
Crowd grid in Tanzania
Scoping for crowdgrid options in urban and rural Tanzania has led us to conclude that, due to legal restrictions in grid- powered areas, rural, unconnected areas that meet local demand for SHS will be our focus area for the prototyping of a crowdgrid. We are currently exploring possible rural locations where we will identify, together with a Tanzanian solar company and village community members, demand for a crowdgrid and then co-develop the prototype.
Designing an inclusive energy system
The technical specifications, delivery model, management structure, and financing scheme will be developed through an inclusive bottom-up process. This process will provide rich learning in terms of technical outcomes and community-level needs and engagement. If successful, the idea has great potential to add more individual and community value to existing isolated SHS, while simultaneously strengthening ‘prosumer’ opportunities, radically shifting our conception of energy systems, from top-down to bottom-up.