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14

Aug 2014

Bringing Solar Lighting to 100 Million People Without Electricity

14 August 2014 | Posted by Zachary

There are actually approximately 2.3 billion people without reliable electricity. We need the efforts of many companies and organizations in order to address this deficiency, and do so with electricity created from clean, renewable energy sources.

One company leading the way on this front is 2013 Zayed Future Energy Prize winner d.light. d.light co-founder Sam Goldman was inspired to fill this gap in 2004 due to a horrible accident. He was doing Peace Corps service in Benin, Africa, at that time. A kerosene lamp overturned accidentally and badly burned his neighbor’s son.

“This incident, along with the knowledge that 2.3 billion people in the world still do not have access to reliable electricity, inspired Sam to participate in a class called Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability at the Stanford Design School, where he met co-founder Ned Tozun. That’s where they developed their initial prototype solar lantern and an ambitious plan to bring safe, bright, and renewable lighting to people around the globe.”

d.light’s ambitions are quite grand. It aims to bring its solar lighting solutions, or other clean electricity solutions, to 100 million people by 2020. By 2015, the goal is 50 million people.

It helps that solar power costs have dropped tremendously, and will continue to drop. It also helps that d.light has already set up 10,000 retail outlets in 40 countries. It now has over 100 direct employees, and also employs hundreds indirectly, and the company is vertically integrated. It designs, manufactures, and distributes its solar-powered lights.

d.light now has four product offerings: a solar-powered “family lantern,” a solar-powered “study lantern,” a “premier lantern” and mobile phone charging device, and an “upgradeable solar home system” that includes a light and a mobile phone charging system. Knowing that these lights and chargers will need to be used in a variety of ways and places, d.light’s products are “designed for versatility,” are very tough, and can handle rough weather, according to the company.

All in all, they are great products and the business model seems to be well suited to the target markets. I can’t wait to see d.light’s next status update, and I hope it will be able to hit its 2015 and 2020 targets.

And all of this just reminds me of something I have said for years: just as mobile phones leapfrogged landlines in much of the developing world, distributed solar power will leapfrog (well, is beginning to leapfrog) large, centralized power plants and grids. d.light is one company making this happen, but there are numerous other companies and organizations doing similar work. We’ll be writing about some of the other leaders in this field in the coming weeks. Check back for more good stories and products that are enabling a transition from no electricity to solar electricity.

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