Mahila Microgrids Partnership (MMP) is a program to bring electricity access to all through innovative microgrid technologies developed at UW-Madison. It is motivated by the simple notion that electricity access is a basic human right that continues to be denied to 1.1 billion people around the world, not because of a lack of technology, but because of a lack of human initiative and agency. With the support of the Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment, MMP accomplishes this goal by forging strategic collaborations with local agencies around the world.
MMP aims to bring low-cost, solar-powered LED lighting, fans, and USB-to-electricity charging to households in communities that lack access. Each household will have its own electricity microgrid, and supplemental and back-up power comes from an electricity distribution network anchored at a local community center. This network provides reliable energy for clean water supply, medical facilities, communications, and education at the community center. The program is organized to be managed by local women’s cooperatives; the word mahila means ‘woman’ in many South Asian languages. Each hamlet has a locally managed co-op branch, which owns all the electricity assets at the hamlet. Each household pays a deposit that is held by the branch for operating capital (supplemented by philanthropic investments and micro-finance loans). Members pay weekly fees to cover operating costs and repayment of loans. One of the hamlet residents is trained to operate and maintain the system. The entire system has internet-based monitoring to ensure reliable operation. Technology and training for the partnership are provided by UW-Madison Engineering faculty and students. In August 2017, UW-Madison students visited tribal hamlets in Nasik district, Maharashtra to conduct a site survey and make local connections.