Light Up Africa with Solar

During the COP 21 Climate Change Conference in Paris last December, Canadian Solar Chairman and CEO Dr. Shawn Qu made a specific call for action to phase out all kerosene lamps in the world and bring clean lighting to people without electricity in the next 10 years.

The numbers are striking. As of today, there are about 1.3 billion people, or 400 million families around the world who still depend on kerosene for light, nearly 20% of the world’s population.

The majority of these 400 million families live in sub-Saharan Africa, but energy poverty is also a problem in India, South East Asia etc.

This is a huge health and safety hazard: Not only do many impoverished families spend up to 25% of their income on kerosene, kerosene lamps also emit highly dangerous black carbon, leading to the death of 1.5 million people every year. Inhaling kerosene smoke is the equivalent of smoking four packs of cigarettes a day and leads to asthma, cancer and worse. The open flame of a kerosene lamp also poses a danger to households.

Clean energy is the most effective way how to help these families, as Bill Gates’ latest annual letter pointed out. However, we don’t have to wait for the “energy miracle” that Bill Gates is looking for – solar lamps are a simple solution to provide basic lighting today.

The financial benefit is also a no-brainer: If we assume that the typical household kerosene lamp is used 3-4h per day with a weekly fuel consumption of one liter, costs can add up to over $4 per month in rural areas, resulting in a payback period of just several months for a hazard-free high lumen solar light.

Switching from kerosene to solar not only makes sense from an environmental or health point-of-view, but also gives the world’s poorest regions more financial possibilities and boosts productivity. Work, education and access to health care will not be limited to the daytime anymore.

It’s a small step, but it’s actionable and helps break a vicious cycle of poverty.

(This article was first featured as a LinkedIn post from Canadian Solar CEO Dr. Shawn Qu, image credits: Solar Aid)