100 million people in Sub Saharan Africa have no lighting.
Two thirds of them light their homes with kerosene, which the World Health Organisation equates to the smoking of two packets of cigarettes a day, for women and children in the home. The environmental consequences of burning billions of litres of kerosene for lighting each year, emitting millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide, is also severely damaging.
In Uganda, 96% of rural households lack access to electricity. Energy poverty is a major obstacle to development. In addition to the benefits listed below, a home solar lighting system also includes a mobile phone charger. This makes possible regular phone use and access to information and to services and increases economic opportunities, as well as cutting out the time and costs currently expended on travel to the nearest towns and phone charging there. The Solar Links model, by establishing savings mechanisms for the unbanked rural poor, introduces the opportunity to save to remote communities, who are then able to purchase goods, livestock and services which improve the health and welfare of their families.
Research from International Energy Agency, World Energy Outlook 2009
Benefits of Solar
Extends the Workday
Of the 1.4 billion people (rising to 1.5 billion by 2030) without access to grid electricity, most live in equatorial latitudes where the sun sets quickly and there is only a brief period of twilight. Electric lighting allows families to extend their workday into the evening hours.
Fumes from kerosene lamps in poorly ventilated houses are a serious health problem in much of the world where electric light is unavailable. The World Bank estimates that 780 million women and children breathing kerosene fumes inhale the equivalent of smoke from 2 packs of cigarettes a day.
Stems Urban Migration
Improving the quality of life through electrification at the rural household and village level helps stem migration to mega-cities. Also, studies have shown a direct correlation between the availability of electric light and lower birth rates.
Kerosene lamps are a serious fire hazard in the developing world, killing and maiming tens of thousands of people each year. Kerosene, diesel fuel and gasoline stored for lamps and small generators are also a safety threat, whereas solar electric light is entirely safe.
Electric light improves literacy, because people can read after dark more easily than they can by candle or lamplight. Schoolwork improves and eyesight is safeguarded when children study by electric light. With the advent of television and radio, people previously cut off from electronic information, education, and entertainment can become part of the modern world without leaving home.
Conserves Foreign Exchange
As much as 90% of the export earnings of some developing countries are used to pay for imported oil, most of it for power generation. Capital saved by not building additional large power plants can be used for investment in health, education, economic development, and industry. Expanding solar rural electrification creates jobs and business opportunities based on an appropriate technology in a decentralized marketplace.
Solar electricity for the Third World is clearly the most effective energy conservation program because it conserves costly conventional power for urban areas, town market centers, and industrial and commercial uses, leaving decentralized PV-generated power to provide the lighting and basic electrical needs of the majority of the developing world’s rural populations.
Use of a SHS rather than gensets or kerosene lamps reduces the time and expense of refueling and maintenance. Kerosene lamps and diesel generators must be filled several times per day. In rural areas, purchasing and transporting of kerosene or diesel fuel is often both difficult and expensive. Diesel generators require periodic maintenance and have a short lifespan. Car batteries, used to power TVs must often be transported miles for recharging. SHS, however, require no fuel, and will last for 20 years with minimal servicing.
Saves Money for Individual Households
The World Bank estimates that in Sub Saharan Africa alone, $10 billion a year is spent on kerosene to illuminate homes, workplaces and community areas. Many households in these countries spend between 10 – 25% of their household income on kerosene. Mobile phone charging, which comes with the solar lighting systems, can itself generate small incomes for householders.
Research from the Solar Electric Light Fund