Liter of Light

SUMMARY: The Liter of Light redesigns solar lighting for the developing world. Our simple technologies create local jobs, teach green skills, and empower energy-poor communities. We believe that community-built, south-south solutions using easily accessible and repairable materials are as powerful as imported, patented and expensive systems centralized by a few stakeholders.

PROBLEM SPACE: "According to the United Nations, over one billion people in the world suffer from energy poverty. The vast majority of these people use kerosene lamps for energy use, exposing them and their families to toxic fumes and risk of fire or other hazards.

While the cost of solar power has decreased, most often proposed solutions bring technologies to energy-poor communities through top-down approaches, importing consumer models without turning over skills or ways to repair the technology.

People only see the part where off-the-shelf, brand new lights are bought, but two to three years down the road, most of them end up in landfills. If a solar battery dies or a simple part breaks, they are difficult and expensive to replace or repair, especially without microcredit or aid. The result is developing countries' continued dependence on imported solutions to solve local problems. This becomes even more severe during national disasters. With communication and transportation networks down, communities become isolated from assistance and vulnerable to increased crime and security issues. With no light at night, women, the elderly and children are susceptible to rape, violence, and restricted movement.

Development in village level solar and internet technology applied in low income communities enjoy an uneasy relationship: many solar solutions currently available on the market promote expensive and inappropriate solutions without taking into account development realities. As demand for humanitarian assistance rises, the sector's dependence on complex international supply chains presents many challenges where funding goes more and more to logistics by as much as 60 percent, according to some estimates. They include sudden and unpredictable spikes in demand; hard-to-reach locations; disruptions due to conflict or disasters; and normal supply chain problems of leakage, spoilage and other losses. On the commercial side, the products are designed not be repairable and with planned obsolescence which puts the beneficiaries in a constant loop of borrowing expensive microcredit every two years to replace home solar systems.

The Liter of Light program has proven that manufacturing solutions in beneficiary villages with cooperatives can create safe and reliable business opportunities for women groups as well a frontline easy repair system that ensures long term use instead of consumptive models where units are throw away when one part fails."

SOLUTION: "Rather than relying on large-scale, imported, or patented technologies, the Liter of Light creates a decentralized grassroots green solar lighting movement based on the principle that anyone can become a solar engineer through community-built solar battery kit for solar reading lanterns, mobile chargers and street lights. Micro solar panels, solarettes and other electronic parts, which are widely available, are assembled by local communities. With a simple circuit panel, drill, and soldering, a solar LED night light is built and installed in homes or in public areas.

Our primary business model in the community is training a cooperative of five women on how to build our technologies. Instead of providing them with financial capital, we seed them the materials and tools required to build their lights. Upon completing their training, they can sell what they produce at a suggested retail price, including a 20% retainer fee which they use to pay off the initial capital investment. The complementary business model is for one store to have a central 50- or 100-watt panel that acts as a central recharging station where people can recharge the solar lamps for a fee."

CONTACT: Ami Valdemoro, [email protected]

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