Across the developing world, retailers are selling solar-powered portable lamps that can meet basic lighting demands, reduce dependence on expensive and inefficient kerosene lighting, and contribute to important development goals like energy access and improved literacy rates.

Solar portable lamp companies must find innovative ways of restoring consumer confidence in their products after a flood of cheap, faulty models created a distrust of the technology (Source: OneDegreeSolar).

Small solar portable lamp companies are learning how to navigate the relatively unstructured business environments of developing countries, but a lack of consumer confidence in the unfamiliar technology is a serious deterrent to scalability. Confidence has been eroded further by the presence of low-quality lamps that mimic higher-quality products. To increase sales and improve both the social and environmental impact of solar portable lamps, companies must develop a dependable product and brand that is appealing to customers both familiar and unfamiliar with solar technology.

Gaurav Manchanda, an Indian-born entrepreneur and founder of One Degree Solar, found a new way to restore consumer confidence in a low-cost lamp that meets the standards of the Lighting Africa project. He developed a short messaging service (SMS) technology that both provides customer service and allows the company to monitor the social and environmental impacts of every lamp sold.

The use of mobile phone technology has skyrocketed in East Africa, and Manchanda’s development of a customer service practice that utilizes this unique market characteristic allows his product to penetrate markets previously characterized by uncertainty. Manchanda’s interest in tracking the social and environmental impact is based on his background in development work, but is also reflective of this market as a whole. Companies that operate in the solar portable lamp market are typically social enterprises interested in the triple bottom line of economic profit, social impact, and environmental health.

Manchanda realized that high-quality customer service is a competitive advantage and a way to generate confidence in relatively new and unfamiliar products among customers with very little purchasing power. With the help of an in-country partner, he developed an SMS platform hosted by Safaricom and Airtel that allows his company to send bulk text messages to purchasers of One Degree Solar products.

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developing countries, east Africa, energy, Energy Access, Green Technology, Innovation, rural electrification, solar portable lamps

Kerosene lamps, such as this one, are used widely for illumination in eastern Africa, but contribute to numerous health and economic problems (Source: Firesika).

The United Nations recently declared the beginning of the Decade of Sustainable Energy for All, continuing the focus on energy access that it began in 2012 with the Year of Sustainable Energy for All. Energy access is widely recognized as a key component of achieving the Millennium Development Goals set out by the United Nations, with impacts on the improvement of health, education, and economic development.

This international focus on energy access stems from the fact that, in many developing areas of the world, energy use is still mostly limited to traditional biomass use (i.e. burning wood for cook fires) and kerosene for lighting, with extremely limited or zero access to modern energy services. In Ethiopia, only 2 percent of the population in rural areas has access to electricity. In Kenya, the inhabitants of remote areas are only slightly better off, with 4 percent electrification rate for the rural population.

However, the use of kerosene for illumination brings with it numerous health, environmental, economic and social problems.  Indoor use of the fuel use significantly deteriorates air quality in homes, leading directly to respiratory illnesses and fatalities. And, as if chronic illnesses are not enough, the risk of fire from overturned kerosene lamps is extremely high. In an interview with an in-country energy expert in Kenya, Worldwatch learned that estimates ranged between 6,000 and 12,000 deaths per year from kerosene fires in Kenya alone, with many of them being children. Overturned kerosene lamps are known to ignite homes quickly and the impacts disproportionately affect women and children, who spend much more of their time within the house.

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Africa, developing countries, development, distributed generation, electricity, Energy Access, Ethiopia, Kenya, kerosene, rural electrification, sub-Saharan Africa

In sub-Saharan Africa, seven out of ten people lack reliable access to electricy. Energy poverty reduces the      quality of education, contributes to illness and disease, and severely hinders economic growth. Building a clean-energy future is a crucial first step to sustainable development. On a national level, unreliable energy systems cost economies one to two percent of their growth potential annually due to outages and the inefficient usage of already scarce resources. On an individual level, a lack of electricity makes it more difficult to increase literacy rates and expand access to clean cooking fuels.


Energy officials in Rwanda and Nigeria – two countries that have demonstrated remarkable economic growth in recent years, but still rely heavily upon expensive and dirty fossil fuels – have expressed interest in bringing Worldwatch’s Sustainable Energy Roadmaps to their own countries. Investment in renewable energy and efficient electricity delivery systems will help these countries reduce their dependence on fossil fuels, give marginalized people access to modern energy services, reduce electricity prices, create jobs, and improve health and education services.

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developing countries, development, electricity, energy, Energy Access, energy poverty, Nigeria, Rwanda, sub-Saharan Africa, sustainable development

This is the translation of a previous post, “The Fifth “E”: Is Energy Becoming a Presidential Priority in Haiti”. To read the original in English, please click here 

Aux quatre priorités que le président Martelly a identifiées pour son mandat, éducation, emploi, environnement, état de droit, qui composent les quatre « E », s’est ajoutée une cinquième priorité, l’énergie. Lors des ateliers sur l’énergie organisés par Dr. René Jean-Jumeau, Secrétaire d’Etat à l’Energie le 27-28 septembre, le Président a insisté sur l’impact désastreux des usages actuels de l’énergie sur la couverture végétale, et la nécessité d’une transition vers des sources d’énergie plus propres. Il a conclu : « nous avons besoin d’électricité pour développer l’industrie dont Haïti a besoin, nous avons besoin d’électricité dans nos campagnes, afin que s’estompent des soirs des ténèbres sans lune. » Le premier ministre Garry Conille a également repris ces priorités lors de son discours de politique générale.

La semaine de l'Energie s'est deroulee les 6-12 novembre dans les Caraibes.

Du 7 au 11 novembre, la Semaine de l’Energie s’est tenue au Parc Historique de la Canne à Sucre et à la faculté des Sciences de l’UEH, pour la première fois en Haïti. Pendant 5 jours, étudiants, personnel académique, entrepreneurs, hommes d’affaires, acteurs de la coopération internationale, ainsi que les hauts responsables du gouvernement ont discuté de l’énergie sous tous ses angles, et de son rôle essentiel dans la reconstruction et le développement d’Haïti. Cette exposition, ouverte à tous, a montré les technologies disponibles en Haïti pour substituer le charbon de bois, et améliorer l’efficience des réchauds utilisés actuellement, augmenter de manière signifiante l’électrification du pays, et développer les ressources renouvelables.

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Caribbean, distributed energy, Energy Access, energy planning, Haiti, natural gas, renewable energy, rural electrification

The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) of India will hold the 12th annual Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS) from February 2 to 4. This year’s Summit is themed “Protecting the Global Commons: 20 years post Rio,” and will aim to develop a path forward towards consensus between industrialized and developing countries on governance of climate change, biodiversity, and forestry, among other issues. The Summit will assess the state of sustainable development 20 years after the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and in advance of the United Nations Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development this June. Featured speakersat this year’s DSDS will include several heads of state, among them Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as well as numerous ministers, government officials, and leaders from business, academia, and civil society.

The Delhi Sustainable Development Summit will take place February 2 - 4, source: TERI

The Delhi Sustainable Development Summit will take place February 2 - 4, source: TERI

Climate change and clean energy access will be among the focus areas discussed at the Summit, with a particular emphasis on the gap between global North and South in terms of development needs, access to technology, and responsibility for global greenhouse gas emissions. For example, a study by the World Resources Institute found that between 1850 and 2002, the United States contributed the greatest share of cumulative carbon dioxide emissions with 29.3 of the global total, followed by the European Union at 26.5 percent. Over the same period, India was responsible for just 2.2 percent of global emissions. While industrialized countries reached current levels of affluence by burning coal and oil, increasingly constrained fossil fuel resources and the threat of global climate change make this an unsustainable path for developing countries. While grappling with the impacts of climate change they largely did not cause, developing countries like India must also explore new paths for sustainable development.

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Climate Change, Energy Access, equity, India, low-carbon, sustainable development

Universal energy access is fundamental to achieving Haiti’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as greater access to energy facilitates progress in education as well as poverty and mortality reduction.  The dynamic development strategy embodied in the MDGs is ineffective unless accompanied by affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy services provided by a capable electricity distribution grid. Haiti is lagging behind in its progress on almost all of its MDGs, and much of this is due to a lack of reliable energy access in the country.

Haiti’s population has the lowest levels of electrification in the Western Hemisphere, with an estimated 70 percent of the population not connected to the grid. Many areas that have access to the grid only have limited access, such as in metropolitan Port-au-Prince, where power is available for only 10 hours daily to most power consumers. Implementing the use of sustainable energy in the form of solar, wind, or hydro power will work to close the development gaps created by a lack of electricity services through several dimensions.

Haiti's MDGs' Progress Report Card Source: UNICEF


Reducing dependency on expensive fossil fuels by transitioning to renewable energies in countries like Haiti, which has no oil reserves of its own, increases domestic revenue streams that can be channeled into other sectors such as healthcare and education.  The use of renewables also diversifies Haiti’s energy portfolio, which reduces the country’s vulnerability to oil price fluctuations. According to Haiti’s Energy Sector Development Plan 2007 – 2017 “Haiti’s petroleum products subsector, which represents only 20-25% of the national energy supply, uses more than 35-50% of external receipts of the country.”

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Caribbean, development, Energy Access, Haiti, Milleniunm Development Goals, renewable energy