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Solar lights and the Global Goals

When a family switches from kerosene to solar they save an average of $70 a year – 10% of their annual income. With 90% of SunnyMoney customers living below the poverty line, the impact of this can be life-changing. Education, better health and enterprise also helps address the root causes of poverty.

Families who switch to solar often spend their savings on better food. Other investments include education, farming inputs and livelihoods which are all linked to hunger reduction.

60% of customers who used kerosene lamps before a switch to solar saw an improvement in their health, including a reduction in coughing, flu-like symptoms, eye irritation and respiratory illness. Kerosene lamps are a constant fire risk and contribute to indoor air pollution the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates kills over four million people peach year.

Access to clean light helps students to do homework for an extra hour a night, and 28% of solar light customers interviewed report that they use savings, no longer needed for kerosene, on school fees and education. Headteachers at the schools.

A SolarAid study in Kenya found that half of teachers interviewed felt school attendance of girls who had access to solar light was better, improving performance. Anecdotal evidence suggests solar lights have potential to improve the safety of women and girls at night. While a Lighting Global pilot confirmed that solar lights and phone charging helped midwives care for patients in Nigeria.

A flourishing solar sector creates jobs and kick starts enterprise. Solar lights are the first step on a clean energy ladder that can lead to even greater energy access. Our research in Zambia shows that over 60% of solar light users said they wanted to buy a solar product with more capacity, and 90% felt more able to do so.

Better lighting and mobile phone connectivity enables productivity and supports the growth of small businesses and enterprise. Savings add to local economies and the solar market provides jobs and opportunity. A UNEP study for West Africa estimated that 25x more jobs can be created in the off-grid lighting sector than in kerosene sales.

Our research shows that solar lights are primarily used for studying, then providing lighting for cooking at night. The WHO notes: “air pollution is a cause of global health inequities, affecting in particular women, children and old persons, as well as low-income populations”. The main users of kerosene lamps are women and children from low-income families.

Switching from kerosene to solar could save billions in fuel subsidies and help avoid lock-in to carbon intensive energy sources. UNEP estimates that in West Africa kerosene subsidies cost $4 billion each year, increasing the comparative cost of life-changing solar alternatives. Anticipated population growth will further increase the burden of kerosene subsidies on governments.

Each solar light sold eradicates the use of a kerosene lamp, which emit on average 370kg of CO2 and equivalent in the form of black carbon, each year – the top two climate warmers. Solar lights drive low-carbon development and pave the way for a clean energy revolution. Across Africa, millions of families are lighting the way to a brighter, more sustainable, future.
SolarAid are joining Action 2015 and calling for global leaders to take strong action to achieve the Global Goals.

*Figures show the historical impact of SolarAid and SunnyMoney’s work since they began selling small solar lights in East Africa. They are calculated over the lifetime of the solar lights and estimated based on our research with solar light users.

For more details, please see the SolarAid Impact Report 2015.