The BBC has just featured our work on Newsnight. In the short video below, you’ll see for yourselves what a difference a small solar light can make. You can’t help but be inspired after watching it….
Hear more about the work we do on Radio 4′s upcoming programme, Costing the Earth.
We’re thrilled to say that BBC Radio 4 are covering the work of SunnyMoney in their upcoming ‘Costing the Earth’ radio programme ‘Electrifying Africa: Beyond the Grid,’ which will be broadcast on Tues 5 March at 15.30 GMT and again on Wed 6 March at 21:00 GMT.
Click on the photo of our very own Solar Roller below for more information!
Following on from the Myth of Electrification post….
Last week I spent time in western Tanzania in the regions of Mwanza and Shinyanga, visiting our teams there who are selling a phenomenal amount of solar lights at the moment.
As with many of Tanzania’s main roads, the road between Mwanza and Shinyanga is, for the most part, lined with electricity pylons. But if you take a closer look, the number of households connected to electricity is minimal. It is far more common to see electricity lines passing over houses, rather than connecting to houses…and that’s houses on the main road. Why? Because it costs alot to connect, once connected there are expensive bills to pay and…power cuts are frequent. Not surprising then that some of the houses in these picture have opted for solar.
We passed thousands of houses just like this between Mwanza & Shinyanga, located right below power lines
As for houses not on the main road in rural areas…well, it’s not rocket science. The likelihood of being connected to the electricity grid is close to zero. Actually, it’s less 2%.
I won’t win any awards for these pictures (lots more on Flickr), but hopefully they serve a purpose to further highlight what a problem this is. You can bet your life that all the homes shown use candles and kerosene on a regular basis. Not surprising then that our teams are seeing such a demand for solar lights. It is, after all, the 21st century. We shouldn’t be forced to use kerosene or candles for some evening light.
Imagine how dark it gets inside these houses even during the day without proper windows
Many more pictures on Flickr
Great article from Evan Mills - The Myth of Electrification – LuminaNET.
This is so true. It is all too common for households across Africa to be located right next to power lines, but have no access to electricity. It’s often too expensive for households to pay the connection fee – let alone the monthly power bills.
Combine this with the fact that power supplies are unreliable and you start to see how big a problem much of the world is facing and why people are forced to rely on flame based lighting solutions…AKA Candles and Kerosene.
Here’s a short video about why Ian McEwan supports SolarAid. Please share and then listen to the whole BBC Radio 4 interview here on 30th December at 7.55am & 9.25pm (UK times).
Click here to help Crowdfund a Project!
In 2008, Nick Sireau (former director of SolarAid) and I got in touch with a design company in London called Therefore as, at the time, SolarAid was thinking about manufacturing a low cost solar light for the rural African market. Why is there such a need for light in rural Africa? This short video, which shows what life is like in rural Tanzania after dark, should tell you all you need to know:
Not long after getting in touch with Therefore, the team of designers called us in for a meeting, told us they had given the problem some thought and then showed us a presentation in which they took us through the key components for a solar light… identifying the batteries and the solar panel as the two most expensive parts…
So they decided to take batteries and solar panels out of the equation to reduce the cost….then scratch their heads about what they could use to generate and store energy instead…..
And they came up with….Gravity. Pure genius!
Fast forward to today and… Click on the photo and take a look:
Good luck guys. The more quality lighting and energy solutions which can be developed for sale in the growing off grid energy market the better.
I’ve just come back from two weeks of paternity leave to the news that our SunnyMoney teams have just surpassed 200,000 sales of solar lights across Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi and Zambia. Well done guys – that’s a great achievement in 2.5 years.
What’s incredible about this however, as you can see from the chart below, is that two thirds of these sales, some 135,000 lights, have been sold in the last 7 months.
Still a long way to go, but with continued hard work, our annual target of over 300,000 lights is in sight. Maybe I should go away on another two weeks of paternity leave to make sure we get there!
I’ve just seen this great photo taken by Steve Woodward from our SunnyMoney team in Zambia.
Headteacher of Chankhanda school, Zambia.
There are 58 solar lights on the back of this headteacher’s motorbike which he’s delivering to his local community. That’s alot of solar lights and alot people who are now using solar lighting as a result of this one, simple, bike ride.
Amazing when you think about it!
Motorbikes are becoming an increasingly common form of transport across much of rural Africa with more affordable bikes coming into the market from China. Perfect for transporting picosolar lights.
You can see more of Steve’s photos and updates from Zambia here!
Yesterday I joined the SunnyMoney Kenya team in Bomet District to see how they were getting on with their Student Lights Campaign, which is hoping to sell 1500 lights this week. It was great to see such enthusiasm for solar lights, with people stopping each other in the streets to show off and chat about their new products. I definitely had a moment yesterday when I saw that – it looked like a dream starting to come true.
Solar Roller rolls into Longisa
This visit coincided with me discovering a cartoon app on my new phone… So here are some snaps from the green hills of Longisa in Bomet, about 14 Kms and three river crossings off the main road, where we saw the team in action with the ever present Solar Roller (It still makes me smile that we made the Solar Roller a reality!)
Linda, Victor, Paul & Felix
And a shout out to the team in Tanzania (which has just recorded its highest number of sales in a month) and our teams in Zambia and Malawi, which have just launched their own student lights campaigns with ambitious targets (Beware my next visit with the cartoon app!)
Victor shows teachers how picosolar works
I’m sat on a plane right now typing this enroute to see the SunnyMoney teams in Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya. Plane rides tend to give me time to reflect a little and I just feel the need to put this out there…
In 2006 SolarAid was born out of enthusiastic, like minded, volunteers in the UK and we installed our first solar system on a community centre in Malawi in 2007. You can imagine the momentum, the feel good factor, which circled around this installation! An idea was becoming a reality. It was simply – great.
Between 2007 and 2011, we then went on to grow from a team of two staff to having a team of around 50 people, running programmes across 5 countries and setting up SunnyMoney as SolarAid’s social enterprise to implement this work. (Alot of work, but a great deal of fun too!)
Here’s a couple of the reflections…the pause on this plane ride….
By April 2012, we’d:
- Completed our 415th solar installation (which today light up rural schools, clinics and community centres across Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia). That’s tens of thousands of people now benefiting from access to electricity, improved education and health facilities…a better life. We were so excited by just one installation … so I think you get the picture of how proud everyone who has made this possible over the years should feel. (You know who you are!)
- Sold over 51,000 picosolar lights, which are now lighting up rural homes, each and every night making life better for hundreds of thousands of people who no longer have to buy kerosene for light. And here’s the thing … In March 2012, in one month, we sold over 12,000 solar lights … more than we sold in the whole of 2010/11.
So yes….we’re scaling up. I am pausing again here. One light was exciting. 51,000 is…. Wow – it’s been quite a journey!
But it does not stop here. I’m relishing what comes next….
We’ve just put together plans to sell over 300,000 solar lights this year. It will be truly amazing if we achieve this. In fact, it’s my job, as the Managing Director of SunnyMoney, to make sure we do…so we’d better! If we do achieve that, the sky really is the limit.
I hope whoever reads this is as excited as I am by all of this. This is not the usual hype you might get from any old company – I don’t think hype is actually my forte.
This is passion – because what we do really makes a difference and the more people who join this small, but growing sector, the better!
More posts from Malawi and Zambia soon…
Yes, I’ve discovered video editing software!
So here’s the first solar video I have uploaded onto youtube, which I hope you’ll like. It’s shot in rural Tanzania, at my old neighbour’s house. Dancing in the dark
2012 here we come!
If it gets to 500 views by the end of Jan 2012, I’ll grow a mustache and post it on this blog
For an opportunity to run our exciting new innovations unit, SunnyMoney Brains, read on!
At SunnyMoney, we are always getting bright ideas about how we can increase access to electricity for people living ‘off the electricity grid.’ This year, after years of effort, I’m pleased to say that we are getting quite good selling lots of lights – we’ve sold over 180,000 since April across rural Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi and Zambia. I won’t bang on about what that means…other than… that’s alot of people no longer being forced to burn candles and kerosene each night. It also probably means that SunnyMoney is, in terms of volumes, the biggest seller of solar lights in Africa right now.
The thing is….180,000 is still a drop in the ocean when you think about how many people live without access to electricity across the world .. some 1.6 billion. So…while we are going to keep ourselves very busy scaling up our sales over the coming years, we also need to continue to innovate. That’s why we’ve decided to set up a dedicated innovations unit which will test new ideas and business models that are considered to risking or ‘far out there’ for the mainstream business to trial itself.
In short, SunnyMoney Brains will be a Nairobi based unit which will run projects set up to FAIL – LEARN – LEAP. By continually trialing new ideas, learning and adapting, we will find the most effective ways in which we can increase access to clean, renewable, energy.
Right now, we are recruiting for a manager to build and lead SunnyMoney Brains here in Nairobi. This is, in my opinion, a fantastic opportunity. Please do share it with anyone you feel is perfect for the job! You can download the job description here: SunnyMoney Brains Manager JD