Solar energy may be the key to combatting poverty worldwide, with 13% of the global population lacking access to electricity in any form. In addition, this energy deprivation threatens financial security for the world’s poor. Energy access facilitates growth out of poverty by improving conditions for health care facilities, creating healthy living environments and empowering young people to pursue education.
Solutions to energy deprivation are necessary to combat global poverty. Two organizations pioneering technology solutions for energy poverty are Litro de Luz and SELF(Solar Electric Light Fund). Moreover, both organizations utilize solar energy to aid in the development of impoverished communities.
Solar Energy and Poverty
The use of solar energy is beneficial in the fight against energy deprivation and climate change. In China, for example, solar energy provides electricity for over 800,000 impoverished families. This solar energy has a direct financial impact, as one county in China witnessed an increase of $400 per household, in annual income after the installation of solar technologies.
However, the benefits of solar energy are not limited to financial growth. The increasing use of solar technology protects the climate and preserves air quality. Energy sources such as solid fuels, coal and biomass contribute to air pollution and are a safety hazard for families in the areas of their use. The World Health Organization estimates that 3 million people die each year from the effects of air pollution. Emission-free energy sources, such as solar energy, are vital to protecting the health of future generations.
Light from Plastic Bottles
Beginning in 2012, Litro de Luz provided light to over a million impoverished families throughout the world by utilizing the invention of Alfredo Moser. Born into poverty, Moser experienced the power outages that plague Brazil, his home country. In 2002, during one such power outage, the idea for an electricity-free light source came to him. Using water, bleach, and a plastic water bottle, Moser was able to light his whole house.
His invention soon spread throughout the world, reaching the ears of Illac Diaz, a Filipino nonprofit director, in 2012. Inspired by the work of Moser, Diaz created Litro de Luz (Liter of Light) as a solution to the crippling poverty he saw in his country. Building off Moser’s invention, Diaz created light-made plastic bottles, solar panels, batteries and LED lamps to bring light to areas in the Philippines that lacked electricity. Since then, Litro de Luz has spread to impoverished communities throughout the world, from Asia to Central and South America.
The Need for Light in Impoverished Communities
While electric light is taken for granted in the US, its importance cannot be overlooked. The light provided by Litro de Luz plays a vital role in the growth out of poverty by empowering students and strengthening healthcare facilities. Without light, students cannot study during the night, making it far more difficult to do homework and succeed in school. Even during the day, reading and writing without a lamp can be difficult, especially during the winter. Litro De Luz is able to increase the amount of time students can dedicate to school. This opens doors to higher education and high-income jobs that enable economic mobility.
For hospitals and other health care facilities, lack of electricity and light is a dangerous threat. Without light, surgeries and care at night are nearly impossible. Most consequentially, infant mortality rates are significantly higher in hospitals without access to light. Some hospitals are forced to use phone flashlights and headlamps as the only source of light for nighttime childbirths, increasing the risk of mistakes that threaten the lives of the mother and child. The work of Litro de Luz in protecting the lives of people needing medical attention and enabling financial mobility is crucial in the fight against global poverty.
Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) Provides Solar Energy
Founded in 1990 by Neville Williams, SELF started out as a small organization working to install and finance home solar systems throughout Asia. In 1997, Williams stepped down as the executive director. Her replacement, Bob Freling, had a larger vision for the organization. He knew that solar energy could be utilized for more than just singular homes. Freling saw the role of solar power in improving health systems, education, and food resources. Freling’s first project under the model of community support was the establishment of a computer lab at a high school in South Africa. After its creation, school enrollment increased by 40% and graduation rates rose by 15%. Since then, SELF pioneered projects throughout the world shifting communities away from fossil fuels and fostering sustainable growth out of poverty.
Work by organizations such as Litro de Luz and SELF impacts the lives of millions throughout the world. From 2000 to 2021, the number of people without access to energy dropped by 9%. While energy deprivation still affects the lives of 940 million people worldwide, the work of Litro de Luz and SELF provides a model for future efforts to raise the standard of living for this vulnerable population.
– Haylee Ann Ramsey-Code