Bringing renewable energy to extremely poor communities replaces the kerosene they typically rely on to provide their light—a practice that comes with a host of damaging effects for both their own health and the broader climate.
This post originally appeared at ThinkProgress
By Jeff Spross
Pollinate Energy, an Australian clean energy company, received a United Nations award on Wednesday for a program that’s brought solar power to the poorest people in India.
As RenewEconomy reports, the company’s program provides low-cost, solar-powered lighting systems to an individual, who then acts as a “pollinator” by selling the systems to families within their local communities. The operation is currently limited to the slums of Bangalore, India, where an estimated 20,000 people live in tent communities, according to Monique Alfris, Co-Founder of Pollinate Energy. But she says the company hopes to expand.
Bringing renewable energy to extremely poor communities replaces the kerosene they typically rely on to provide their light — a practice that comes with a host of damaging effects for both their own health and the broader climate. It also gets around the problem of electrification: millions of the world’s poor throughout South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa still lack access to an electrical grid — including 293 million in India alone — and lighting powered locally by distributed solar is an effective way to get around the problem. And even when such communities do get access to electrification, distributed solar can bring stability as brownouts and blackouts remain ongoing problems.
Financing their energy consumption is also difficult for the world’s poor. They can’t pull together the money for a larger one-time purchase of a home solar array, so they rely on traditional fuels like kerosene which can be purchased in small, discrete increments — despite the latter piling to a much greater cumulative expense. Programs like Pollinate Energy’s are popping up around the world’s impoverished regions to solve these problems either with extremely cheap systems or with new methods of micro-financing.
Another benefit of pollinate Energy’s program is it gives members of these communities the chance to earn additional income by acting as micro-entreprenuers.
The prize comes from the United Nations’ Momentum for Change program, and will be presented today at the ongoing climate talks in Warsaw. According to the UN’s numbers, Pollinate energy has provided 10,000 in Bangalore to date with its lighting systems, saving 40,000 litters of kerosene and 100,000 kilograms of carbon emissions ion the process. Further, they estimate Pollinate Energy could soon be operating across 50 major Indian cities and providing their lighting to 35,000 communities.
The company’s other co-founder, Katerina Kimmorley, told RenewEconomy the idea for the program grew from her Master’s thesis at the London School of Economics. And Alfris provided a concrete example of how it helped a woman in Bangalorte named Parambi: “She was the first in her community to take a solar lighting kit from us for a week as a demo. Parambi told us that she uses the solar light to do tailoring work in the evenings. “I do domestic housework in the daytime so I previously wasn’t able to work at night,” she told us. Her children also use the light to study. Previously they would get home from class at around 6 or 7pm and would not be able to do any further work… Now her kids are able to use the light to do a few extra hours work, or instead use the hours to play safely without danger of knocking over the naked flame and being burnt.”
Photo: Pollinate Energy