By Mark Kawalya
Jaza Energy, one of the companies that has had a big impact on lighting up the remote areas of rural Tanzania provides power to many last-mile customers. The firm operates on an affordable battery swap model where users rent battery packs and return them to Jaza hubs for recharging at a small fee as they pick up another recharged pack.
In many African countries, access to electricity has remained a mainstay of urban areas. Rural areas are cut off the national grid due to a lack of investment in connection infrastructure and a lack of prioritization from governments.
Only 40% of Tanzanians have access to electricity and the number dwindles, even more, when it comes to rural areas. Most of the people living in the countryside use Kerosene, which is costly and negatively impacts health, especially for women and children. Additionally, Kerosene is a significant source of atmospheric black carbon.
Currently, Jaza energy has 78 hubs spread across different parts of Tanzania supplying power to more than 39,000 people. The Government of Tanzania has expanded access to energy, and the solar home system market has grown steadily with over 100 mini grids operating in the country. However, a large percentage of people in rural communities still lack access to electricity and cannot afford connection fees.
“Jaza Energy is helping to revolutionize off-grid energy access in Tanzania through the development of a network of solar energy hubs that offer battery packs for home lighting and other household energy needs. In the process, Jaza is reducing CO2 emissions by displacing Kerosene and creating job opportunities for young women in rural areas,” says Jeff Schnurr, Jaza CEO.
While customers use the battery packs for domestic household use, 16% of customers use them to run small businesses from which they derive their sustenance. A Jaza battery pack has a 200 Watt lithium-ion battery that has the capacity to power TV and radio sets, lights, mobile phones, and other smaller appliances for home use.
The flexibility and affordability of the battery swap model has the capability of making electricity accessible to the poorest and most remotely located customers.
Components for the batteries are made in China and shipped to Tanzania to be locally assembled. This gives the local people the skillset required to implement in-country battery repairs.
Since Jaza, maintains the ownership of the batteries, the firm manages disposal of e-waste and monitors usage to ensure batteries are appropriately maintained and fully utilized. Batteries that complete their life cycle are recycled or disposed of safely.