Sustainable light is an engine for Economic Development

The global market for kerosene used as a source of light is estimated to be $37 billion per year.

This represents an enormous cost for the hundreds of millions of families that turn to burning fuels because they don’t have electricity. Burning a kerosene wick lamp is also remarkably inefficient. Although about one in four people obtain light with kerosene and other fuels, representing about 20% of global lighting costs, they receive 0.2% of the resulting lighting energy services.

By installating solar systems in remote communities without access to electricity, LUTW is powering opportunity and fostering economic development.

Solar powered systems that LUTW installs provide households with a practical electricity service that creates brighter light, charges cell phones and enables people to turn on the radio at any time. These benefits all come at a fraction of the cost of previous kerosene, candle and battery expenses. Once systems are installed, the money that used to literally go up in smoke can be put towards food, education, health care or entrepreneurial ideas.

In un-electrified rural parts of Costa Rica, when the sun goes down around 6 pm, many families turn to candles to light their homes. In many communities, families burn 2-3 candles per night on average. Candlelight helps children study and families cook, do chores and socialize in evenings. While the candles are not very bright, families have few alternatives if they want to be able to see in their homes at night. A single candle can cost between 20-30 cents. On a monthly basis, families spend upwards of $20-$30 USD ($240 – $360 a year) on home lighting, representing in some cases, up to 1/3 of their income. Solar home systems being installed in rural homes by LUTW and partners cost families about $220. Families are able to spread payments out over a number of months until the systems are paid for completely. After about a year, families have dependable, healthy light and have freed up to 30% of their cash flow to redirect to other priorities. The economic impact of savings cannot be underemphasized. With fewer expenses families have extra money to invest in their children’s education, improve nutrition, invest in a business opportunity all of which contribute to reducing a family’s vulnerability.

What portion of your monthly income do you spend on lighting your home? Can you imagine spending a third of your income on lighting? A third of our income is what many families spend on their rent or mortgage. Can you imagine if you were all of a sudden able to save that much extra money every month. It’s not difficult to see how access to sustainable energy solutions that save families money leads to more opportunities for economic development opportunities. Small businesses can operate easier in the evening, and villagers can power their cell phones and radios, helping them research the best price for their crops.