Yesterday, SolarAid was selected as a Gold Award winner in the 2013 International Ashden Awards for its work building sustainable markets for small solar lights across East Africa. SolarAid’s creative distribution of solar technology across remote African regions caught the judges attention in the same month the organisation reached sales of over half a million lights.
Sarah Butler-Sloss, Ashden Founder Director said: “SolarAid has taken a huge step forward in eradicating the kerosene lamp from Africa by deliberately targeting the hardest places to reach with solar lighting – the very places where people are most in need. By working with schools to get study lanterns to families it is helping give a whole generation of African schoolchildren the chance of a better future.”
Creative Distribution: To create sustainable markets for solar lights and inspire trust in the technology, SolarAid set up a social enterprise, SunnyMoney, which engages local communities through the schools’ network. By working with respected head teachers, SunnyMoney is able to spread the message that solar lights are affordable, reliable and free up money spent on kerosene. Head teachers support this enterprise because they can see the tangible benefits of these solar lights on pupil’s exam results and wellbeing.
Impact of Solar Lights: Replacing toxic kerosene with solar lights improves economic prosperity, education, enterprise, opportunity and health, providing a platform for communities to develop and prosper. Recent reports(1) indicate that eradicating the kerosene lamp will have far greater environmental benefits than previously recognized due to their prolific black carbon emissions; the urgent need to roll out the technology was highlighted in the post-2015 development report requested by the UN Secretary General, 30 May 2013.
Pippa Palmer, SolarAid MD, stated: “We are delighted that Ashden have recognised the efforts of our SunnyMoney teams across Africa who have been working tirelessly to build a pan-continental market for solar lanterns to displace toxic kerosene lamps. We believe the 598million off-grid African people have a right to choose clean, safe light for their families and are calling on everyone to help us give them that choice.
Steve Andrews, SolarAid CEO, in his acceptance speech, stated: “I’d like to dedicate this award to our staff, our indigenous African staff, some of whom spend months away from their wives, children and husbands, out in the field miles and miles away from home selling lights for us every day. They do a truly extraordinary job. So this is for them – thank you.”
SolarAid’s goal is to eradicate the kerosene lamp from Africa by 2020. To provide an alternative, SolarAid set up SunnyMoney, a social enterprise that uses an innovative business model to distribute small solar lights at scale. Rather than giving aid, SunnyMoney sells lights in order to build viable sustainable markets in areas where little retail or transport infrastructure exists. SunnyMoney is now the largest seller of solar lights in Africa. All lights sold by SunnyMoney are Lighting Africa approved and combine photovoltaic, battery and LED technology. These solar lights have a life-span of at least 5 years and cost as little as £5.
UN recommendation to eradicate kerosene – 30 May 2013
Singling out the potential for solar LED lighting, the post-2015 development report, chaired by David Cameron and the Presidents of Liberia and Indonesia notes:
“Providing people with access to modern and reliable energy to cook and light their homes has enormous social, economic and environmental benefits. The use of traditional fuels indoors is toxic, causing illness and death. A lack of light prevents children from studying and learning and women can spend too much time gathering wood for fires. Just one kilogram of ‘carbon black’ particles produced by kerosene lamps contribute as much warming to the atmosphere in two weeks as 700 kilograms of carbon dioxide circulating in the atmosphere for 100 years.
The solutions are available and affordable – all we must do is act.”
(1) Bond, T. C., et al. (2013), Bounding the role of black carbon in the climate system: A scientific assessment, J. Geophys. Res. Atmos., 118, doi:10.1002/jgrd.50171.