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Solar Social Enterprises that Provide Power to the Developing World


Solar is a booming industry these days. With an abundance of venture capital pouring into solar startups on everything from mega solar utility projects to home solar lease companies,  it’s no surprise that more and more social entrepreneurs are trying to get in on the solar game.

However, another breed of entrepreneurs are trying to bring solar to the people who need it the most – the world’s poorest people in the developing world. While in the developed world, solar may seem like a luxury available to homeowners with extra cash to burn, in the developing world, solar can mean life or death.

Consider the fact that over 2 billion people rely on kerosene for their home energy needs. Kerosene is one of the most common fuels used for lighting in developing countries, but it is incredibly polluting and linked to tuberculosis. Not only do individual families suffer health challenges because of the indoor air pollution created by burning kerosene, this fuel is also unsustainable in terms of global warming and climate change.

Families in developing countries can spend anywhere between 5% and 30% of their income every month on kerosene for lighting in their homes. And due to the limited nature of kerosene lamps, farmers, cooks, and students are restricted to working only during daylight hours, which can diminish their earning capacity.

One of the brightest solutions being pioneered by social enterprises is solar-powered LED lamps. Not only do these lighting solutions offer low-cost operation, they also provide powerful, clean, non-polluting illumination without the dangers and expensive of kerosene lamps. And contrary to what you might think, renewable technologies are very desirable and actually quite affordable for poor communities when done right. The following solar social enterprises are proving that people in developing countries benefit greatly through solar lighting.

Not only does poor quality light result in unsustainable expenses and loss of income, but burning kerosene also creates noxious fumes that pollute indoor air, causing problems for humans young and old. Insufficient light also limits the learning capacity of children who would study at night if they had adequate illumination. Pass rates for children with proper lighting are 57-100% compared to those without a bright study light.
d.light is working to do something about these lighting challenges for developing communities by selling low-cost, money-saving solar LED lights to people in developing countries. Their solar products offer high-quality light (up to 100 hours with just one day in the sun) for a variety of purposes – everything from preparing meals to doing math homework to working in the field.

ToughStuff is working to help people find more sustainable lighting by selling solar products that typically cost $10 or less, with payback periods between two and three months. Not only are solar lights from ToughStuff healthier for the family, they can save these people up to $100 every year in fuel costs. And when individuals choose to engage with ToughStuff as micro-enterpreneurs, they are afforded the chance to earn income by helping their villages achieve a wider adoption of solar technologies.

Greenlight Planet
Greenlight Planet is yet another solar social enterprise that has already provided clean, renewably-powered solar lighting to over 100,000 villagers so far. Using an innovative business model, they are working to build inroads into rural markets where renewable energy is needed most because of lack of access to traditional electricity supplies. Their solar lights use long-lasting lithium-ion battery packs, LED bulbs, and are water-sealed to withstand the harshest environmental conditions.

Your social investment dollars couldn’t find a better home than with one of these solar social enterprises. Check them out and make a de-light-ful difference in someone’s life.

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Chief Evolutionary Officer at Entrepreneurs for a Change
Lorna Li is a business coach, entrepreneur and Amazon rainforest crusader, with a passion for green business, social enterprise, and indigenous wisdom. She helps changemaking entrepreneurs harness the power of the Internet to reach more people and make a bigger impact, while designing the lifestyle of their dreams. She is an Internet marketing consultant to changemakers, and works with innovative tech startups, sustainable brands, social enterprises & B-Corporations on SEO, SEM & Social Media marketing.
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