Solar energy is changing lives in sub-Saharan Africa

Anyone who is reading this message is likely accustomed to certain amenities: access to plentiful food, clean water, and the ability to push a button or flip a switch to enjoy light, heating or cooling, and the capacity to cook food.

For most of us who have installed solar power systems, it was a choice not dictated by necessity. For many people in developing countries, though, there is no energy infrastructure in place to help make life more secure or comfortable. Here, we’ll tell you about how solar energy is changing lives in sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly 600 million people live without grid electricity.

Lighting Africa is a nonprofit organization, part of the World Bank Group’s contribution to Sustainable Energy for All. Numerous European countries, Australia, Canada and the U.S. are partners in the effort. Lighting Africa ran its first pilot programs in Ghana and Kenya in 2009 and, since that time, has enabled 28.8 million people in 25 countries across Africa to meet their basic electricity needs – including lighting and mobile phone charging – through off-grid solar products. The organization hopes to reach 250 million more people by 2030.

What are off-grid solar products? They can range from lanterns and smaller solar home systems that can power a TV or a fan. A key benefit of using off-grid solar products is that they replace the frequent use of kerosene, which is not only relatively expensive – families save approximately $70 per year after they buy a solar light – but also creates significant health and safety hazards such as fire and burns, indoor air pollution, non-intentional ingestion by children, and visual health issues related to eye strain. Each of the previous hazards affect health and mortality. And better lighting means more time for students to study, resulting in better grades and improved career prospects.

A lack of access to energy impacts a person’s ability to live above the poverty line. Every basic need, from food and housing to education and finance, are hindered by energy poverty and the limitations affect entire communities.

While the work being done by Lighting Africa has little relation to our business, other than a basic technological connection, it thrills us to be able to report that solar technology is changing lives in such a positive way. Certainly, when we install solar on a client’s home or business, we know that there are significant financial and environmental benefits. (Plus, it’s fair to mention that, whenever someone here invests in a solar array on their home or business, they are helping to fund research and development and expansion of solar manufacturing capacity, which makes solar more affordable for everyone around the world.) But when solar power helps those who are energy-deprived to lead healthier, safer lives while expanding their economic opportunities, that’s just plain inspirational. And who couldn’t use a little inspiration in these challenging times?

Here is a link to Lighting Africa’s website if you’d like to learn more.

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