Finding a way out of energy poverty (Day 36)

Kenya Solar Panel project

Kenya Solar Panel Project

Energy poverty can mean different things in different parts of the world. In Europe, the debate is most often about the spiraling cost of energy. For some it means cutting-back on their heating and living in colder homes.

But for the one in four people around the world who don’t even have access to an energy grid, the issues are even more acute. It’s a problem that one charity – Village Infrastructure – is determined to help solve.

Village Infrastructure’s (VI) mission is to make energy affordable for the 1.3 billion people who live without electricity. Their innovative approach has already been recognised by the G20, who have provided grant funding.

Their approach reminds me of the proverb: ‘give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime’. Their solution is to help communities build a new economy around solar power.

Solar Panel

The Village Infrastructure team installing a solar panel in Ghana.

It works like this – VI, and its partners, help to establish accessible solar panel powered charging stations, capable of supporting around 50 households. The result is clean energy, returns for investors and employment for those running the service.

Typically communities pay an entrepreneur a small amount per week to charge their lamps. The entrepreneur keeps a portion of the money collected and the rest is paid to a micro-finance organisation to pay for the loan of the lamps and panels.

After a period of time, the lamps and panels are paid off and can be either upgraded or continue to run as they are.

There’s also a safety and financial dividend for communities reliant on Kerosene for their light and heating. Kerosene can be harmful to health caused by dangerous fumes and accidental fires. It is also relatively expensive for communities – and it is this money which communities use to pay for a cheaper, cleaner, safer and more sustainable solar energy supply.

Village Infrastructure was only incorporated in June 2012, but has already established projects in Ghana, Vanuatu and Honduras. They are also project managers for clients’ projects in Indonesia and Nepal.

If you would like to invest in the Village Infrastructure project and support its founders: Stewart Craine, Lucy Symons and Kim Chen, please visit their website.

Reading in Vanautu

Solar lighting keeps children safe and supports educational achievement in Vanuatu.