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Ian Marchant Lights the Way

There’s a group of shining beacons in Africa who have been instrumental in helping us sell 1.4 million solar lights. Without their help, support and passion, countless communities would not be benefiting from safe, clean light today. These guys range from head teachers to local entrepreneurs; they are all helping to Light the Way.

Of course, over here in the UK the exact same thing is happening. We have a group of amazing and passionate supporters who are commited to building sustainable solar markets in Africa. Today’s blog comes courtesy of Ian Marchant, former CEO of SSE, whose passion for off-grid solutions has led to the incredible initiative: Scotland Lights up Malawi.


Here’s what Ian had to say;

Ian with 3000m steeplechase World Champion Moses Kiptanui

“Having spent many years working in the energy sector, particularly in the electricity industry when I decided to support a charity it was obvious to look for one with a deep connection to the day job. After due diligence I alighted (sorry about the pun!) on SolarAid. Let me explain why.

There are about 1.3 billion people in the world without access to something we take for granted; mains electricity, and most of them are in Africa. But it gets worse.

They are generally reliant on kerosene for their lighting and the more I Iooked at this the more horrified I became. The light from a kerosene lamp is very poor, it’s like living with a smoker who chain smokes every day and is responsible for a big proportion of serious burns. By this time I was switched on to the issue and was really taken with SolarAid’s big goal of abolishing the kerosene lamp from Africa by 2020. I also liked their ‘business model’ of providing affordable lights to poor communities by distribution through schools. That, to me, gets to the heart of the problem, and works in both rural and urban areas.

So after my period of enlightenment I have been involved with SolarAid for about six years now both as a donor and ambassador and this has directly led to the Scotland Lights up Malawi campaign.


In my role as Chairman of Scotland’s 2020 group we have been challenged as to how we respond to the issue of climate justice. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report highlights a moral issue when it says “risks are unevenly distributed and are generally greater for disadvantaged people and communities at all levels of development”. The lack of affordable access to sustainable energy is a key part of this as the current solutions are also very carbon intensive. Every five kerosene lamps emit a tonne of CO2 a year.

It seemed obvious to me that the provision of solar lights to school children was a great response to this, hence the campaign.

So why am involved?

Solar lights are better, cleaner, safer and cheaper than the alternatives.

What’s not to like?”