The Economist magazine: Lighting the Way - about Flexiway and solar lights
This week the Economist magazine and website posted a great article that supports our vision and our light! It is wonderful to read the approval of such an influential publication, thanks for your support!
The full article can be found online here: www.economist.com/node/21560983, here are the introduction and some quotes:
WHICH plastic gadget, fitting neatly in one hand, can most quickly improve the lives of the world’s poorest people? For the past decade the answer has been clear: the mobile phone. But over the next decade it will be the solar-powered lamp, made up of a few light-emitting diodes (LEDs), a solar panel and a small rechargeable battery, encased in a durable plastic shell. Just as the spread of mobile phones in poor countries has transformed lives and boosted economic activity, solar lighting is poised to improve incomes, educational attainment and health across the developing world.
As previously happened with mobile phones, solar lighting is falling in price, improving in quality and benefiting from new business models that make it more accessible and affordable to those at the bottom of the pyramid. And its spread is sustainable because it is being driven by market forces, not charity.
Phones spread quickly because they provided a substitute for travel and poor infrastructure, helped traders find better prices and boosted entrepreneurship. For a fisherman or a farmer, buying a mobile phone made sense because it paid for itself within a few months. The economic case for solar lighting is even clearer: buying a lamp that charges in the sun during the day, and then produces light at night, can eliminate spending on the kerosene that fuels conventional lamps. Of the 1.4 billion people without access to grid electricity, most live in equatorial latitudes where the sun sets quickly and there is only a brief period of twilight. But solar lamps work anywhere the sun shines, even in places that are off the grid, or where grid power is expensive or unreliable.
Flexiway, an Australian-Argentine maker of solar lamps, found in its trials in Tanzania that households often spent more than 10% of their income on kerosene, and other studies have put the figure as high as 25%. And kerosene does not merely eat up household income that could be spent on other things. It is also dangerous. Kerosene lanterns, a century-old technology, are fire hazards.
The Solar Muscle, a solar lamp made by Flexiway, can be used as a desk light. Its compact, square design, with a solar panel on one side and LEDs on the other, also allows several lamps to be snapped together to make a larger panel. The square design arose after an earlier, circular version was mistaken for a landmine, says James Fraser of Flexiway. The firm can pack 2,750 of its $10 lamps in a cubic metre—a plus in countries where transport is expensive. They are being distributed by NGOs in Papua New Guinea and several African countries.
Most solar lamps allow the battery to be replaced once it wears out, and some (such as Flexiway’s) use standard-sized rechargeable batteries to make replacement as simple as possible. But this creates a new pollution problem: there are no facilities to recycle the old batteries. Flexiway suggests that entrepreneurs selling rechargeable batteries could offer a discount when old batteries were traded in and gather them up for centralised recycling, but it is unclear whether this model would work.
Demand for cheap, efficient lighting is only going to grow. Even in the best-case scenarios, the number of people without electricity will tick up to 1.5 billion by 2030, as population growth outstrips electrification. The rate of innovation in delivery models, technology and design, in both rich and poor countries, suggests a bright future for solar lamps—and a slow dimming of kerosene’s flame.
The full article can be found online here: www.economist.com/node/21560983, please read it and share it with your friends!
- 1 Alleviate poverty Reduce poverty by saving 25% of household costs!
- 2 Health benefits removing toxic and dangerous kerosene from households
- 3 Prevent fire hazards Kerosene lamps are leading cause of house fires
- 4 Enabling education Students can study better & longer, more money for books
- 5 Save our planet Stop global warming, deforestation and pollution
- 6 Increase income Light at night can create additional income streams
- 7 Empowering women LED lights create a brighter future for women and girls
- 8 Empower communities Light generates joint income, offers new possibilities
- 9 Increase safety bringing light in houses and community
- 10 Solar education Teach students and entrepreneurs about solar