At a workshop on Lighting Africa at last year’s Solarfest, the argument for renewable low voltage lighting made an impression on me. One of the slides really stuck with me, showing how people adopted cell phones in Kenya, demonstrating that if a new technology becomes obviously essential, people will adopt it in huge crowds. Lighting Africa is hoping to create the awareness and markets for people to be able to make the shift away from non sustainable lighting sources like kerosene lamps and towards more sustainable illumination.

Gareth’s recent piece on Cheap Efficient LED Lighting in West Africa got me thinking of this initiative again. If people can spend the money they have budgeted for lighting rather than kerosene, they can make a lasting improvement on their night time lives.

Every year, African households and small businesses spend upwards of $17 billion on lighting, dominated by fuel-based sources such as kerosene, a costly an inefficient alternative. However, despite these huge expenditures – many households spend as much as 30% of their disposable income on fuel-based lighting – consumers receive little value in return. Fuel-based lighting is inefficient, provides limited and poor quality light, and exposes users to significant health and fire hazards. Exacerbating this problem, fuel-based lighting also produces Greenhouse Gases (GHGs), leads to increased indoor air pollution and associated health risks, inhibits productivity and jeopardizes human safety.

If you were going to buy a flashlight now, you would certainly think long and hard about buying a torch with an incandescent bulb if you could buy one with LEDs or a high efficiency flourescent tube. There is money in the marketplace for purchasing lighting. What can we makers do to help that market mature and grow in innovative ways?