Solar lighting cuts kerosene emissions in India

Solar-powered lamps are providing reliable, non-polluting lighting for growing numbers of people in India thanks to a loan programme that makes the technology affordable for the rural poor.

Just a few hours of reliable lighting each night make a big difference

Just a few hours of reliable lighting each night make a big difference

Since the $1.5m UN-led loan programme helping Indian banks offer loans for the solar systems the number of small businesses and households installing them has jumped 13-fold, from 1,400 to 18,000.

People living in rural areas often have no access to reliable electricity as power outages are common, and have to trek long distances to obtain expensive kerosene fuel for lamps whose fumes can cause respiratory problems.

"To average citizens of most developed countries, with perhaps dozens of lights and unlimited electric power on every floor of a home, conditions in rural parts of India may seem unimaginable," says Jyoti Painuly, senior energy planner at the UNEP Risoe Centre on Energy, Climate and Sustainable Development.

"We aren't talking about operating a toaster, kettle, computer or microwave oven - just a handful of low-wattage lights, and perhaps a small fan, radio or TV for a few hours nightly - but even that can make a world of difference."

The solar lighting systems, which cost around $300-500 each, cut out the carbon emissions from kerosene as well as the air pollution and the need to buy fuel.

"Kerosene used by the poor for lighting is often unaffordable, unavailable, unsafe and unhealthy while the electricity power grid is unreliable.

"To provide even this little degree of electricity reliability and independence is to empower the poor in ways that can profoundly alter lives for the better," said Timothy E. Wirth, president of the UN Foundation which funded the project together with the Shell Foundation.

"The project underlines the multiple benefits accruing by providing clean and renewable energies in developing countries," said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

"These range from reducing the emissions that are causing climate change to overcoming poverty and the serious health toll taken by dirty fuels - especially on women and children and particularly in the home.

"The success of this project should also serve as a catalytic blue-print for similar schemes across the developing world and lead to the scaling up of renewable energies everywhere."

Goska Romanowicz


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