In Malawi, only nine percent of the population is connected to the electricity grid. In rural areas, this number drops to one percent. In a country with a population of 16.7 million, growing at three percent a year; this is not sustainable.

The country’s economic and social development will slow drastically, if the energy crisis in Malawi persists.

According to a report by the BBC, the Malawian government is attempting to connect more people to the grid by opening the energy market to independent producers. Although this will make a significant difference, it comes at a price.

Malawi’s Energy Minister, Bright Msaka, said that Malawi could produce an extra 200 Mega Watts of solar energy by 2019, adding to the current capacity of 300 Mega Watts.

In the meantime, SolarAid is providing a cheaper and cleaner solution to the energy crisis in Malawi through its solar-powered lamps which can also charge mobile phones.

According to the charity’s website, many households in countries across Africa use homemade kerosene lamps. These are dangerous, emitting toxic black smoke; they are a weak light source and on average use up a significant portion of a family’s household, budget.

“A solar lamp is a compact, portable device that uses a photovoltaic panel to produce up to 10 watts of power,” according to a statement on SolarAid’s website. They typically take eight hours to charge, but can emit light for several hours.

The charity has introduced a pay-as-you-go ownership system at a cost of $12. In order to make the lamps more accessible, the organization offers a payment plan over the course of 3 or 4 months.

SolarAid’s social enterprise, SunnyMoney, is the largest distributor of solar lights in Africa. SunnyMoney has worked with Powered World Initiative USA to provide more students with solar lights that can make studying at home much easier.

“The amount of light that you get is linked to the amount of money you pay,” said Brave Mhonie, the national sales co-ordinator for SolarAid, in an interview with the BBC. While this is not a sustainable long-term solution, it is a strategy that can provide many with electricity, when they otherwise would be unable to access it.

The lamps help to address the energy crisis in Malawi, by providing a much safer alternative to kerosene, candles, or battery-powered torches. So far, SolarAid has sold 1,844,592 solar lamps and counting.

Michelle Simon

Photo:  Flickr

D-Light Solar Energy
An estimated 1.3 billion people live without access to electricity globally. In the 21st century, access to electricity is almost as important as food and water; it is undoubtedly a lifeline for the economic and financial health of any nation.

Inaccessibility to electricity hinders economic growth, as well as impacts the standard of life in regions without electricity, crippling the human capital as well.

The link between access to electricity and poverty has long been established. Modern technology is, more often than not, dependent on electricity.

From successful farming and production of sufficient food to education resources and the creation of industry, electricity is the prerequisite for numerous facets of life. The United Nation’s Millennium Goals also identify the importance of electricity in eradicating global poverty.

Despite the significance of electricity in today’s world, many developing countries struggle to find solutions to the problem of accessibility of electricity. To address the problems of electricity shortage, we have to ask what the reason for this shortage is.

The primary cause of the unavailability of electricity in most regions is the lack of technology to produce electricity or the lack of resources used for its production, such as coal, gas and water dams.

Solar energy is currently being touted as the cure-all to the energy woes of the world. Solar energy is a renewable source of energy and is also ecologically sustainable.

Although it is by no means the most energy-efficient in terms of the ratio of available energy to harvested energy, solar power is abundant in developing countries and can be harnessed for generating electricity.

Recently, the development and provision of solar-powered devices to low-income countries have gained momentum. Programs like Solar Electric Light Fund and Solar Sisters work to empower the populations living in extreme poverty through the provision of electricity and related resources.

d.light is also one such initiative. Its goal is to provide electricity to people in developing countries. According to its estimates based on its customers’ feedback, d.light has helped more than 50 million people worldwide with its program.

d.light was initially developed as the brainchild of Sam Goldman, who saw the dangers of kerosene usage for lamps in East Africa. He partnered with Ned Tozun to find d.light in 2006, which operates principally in East Africa and India.

d.light manufactures solar lamps and solar chargers, which are compact, mobile, safe and incur no recurring costs. Its products are also designed to be efficient, yet inexpensive and long-lasting. d.light’s solar lamp, S2 — at $8 apiece — has the distinction of being the world’s most affordable, high-quality solar light.

The impact of these solar lights is not only financial but environmentally significant as well. Approximately 4 million tons of carbon dioxide production usage have been offset to date.

The solar lamps have cumulatively saved $275 million for families who previously spent 10 to 15 percent of their earnings on kerosene. The program has also created job opportunities by creating a local market for importing and selling d.light’s products.

d.light has sold more than 10 million solar lamps to date. Its goal is to reach 100 million people by 2020. With a dedication to providing affordable, efficient and safe electricity to millions of people in developing countries, d.light is set to realize its objectives and improve millions of lives.

Atifah Safi

Sources: D.light, Acumen, World Energy Outlook, Global Envision
Photo: Pixabay