Small-scale, decentralized and modular technologies can play key roles for providing basic human services such as energy, sanitation and fresh water, especially in contexts without access to physical infrastructure. But deployment of these “gridless” technologies is currently limited by financing, regulations, standards and lack of appropriate business models.

In both the electricity and wastewater treatment sectors, small-scale, decentralized and modular technologies are becoming increasingly attractive as alternatives to traditional large-scale centralized systems.

This development is in many ways quite beneficial, as it can open up new opportunities for provision of basic services, especially to communities where connection to central power grids or wastewater treatment systems are either not available or prohibitively expensive. This includes island communities, rural regions in global South and humanitarian aid settlements, but could also apply to informal settlements in rapidly urbanizing regions.

Development and deployment of gridless technologies come with a set of challenges that in many ways are different to those seen in systems based on large physical grid infrastructures. The objective of the Gridless Initiative is to gain an increased understanding of gridless technologies as a sociotechnical phenomenon, so as to understand how they can be developed and deployed in a way that maximizes their potential when it comes to acceleration of sustainability transitions.


SEI Initiative on Gridless Solutions co-funds SEI’s work in the sWASH&grow project which focuses on developing tools to enable innovators and aid organizations bring more circular, inclusive and sustainable innovations to those in need. Learn more about the project.