Location: Odisha, India
In India, half the population does not have electricity, and for the half that does, power cuts can last for days at a time. For this reason, 90% of households rely on kerosene lamps for lighting and wood fires for cooking. However, kerosene is both expensive and a serious health hazard. Not only does it use up 40% of a household’s monthly income, but it also emits toxic fumes, causes fires and releases millions of tons of carbon dioxide annually. As India’s population continues to grow, energy poverty has become a pressing problem that needs a new solution. Extending the grid to reach those without electricity is too costly, and solar lighting products priced at $10-25 remain out of reach for customers earning just $1-2 per day.
Founded by Sameer Hajee in 2008, Nuru Energy has developed and taken to market modular, LED rechargeable lights, which cost less than $6 each. Each light can be used as a task light or connected with others to provide ambient lighting. Additionally, households can pay in increments or when they have income, so even the poorest of the poor can afford clean energy. Nuru Energy has also developed the POWERCycle, the world’s first commercially-available pedal generator. While solar-based lanterns and recharging stations need 8-10 hours of direct sunlight to provide 4 hours of light per lamp, the POWERCycle only needs 20 minutes of gentle pedaling to charge up to 5 Nuru lights and provide over 40 hours of lighting. Pilot projects in the Rayagada and Kandahmal districts of Odisha have also led to the development of new products such as the POWERBox (a fast AC charger similar to the POWERCycle) and on-grid lights for households faced with frequent power cuts. To distribute these products, Nuru Energy identifies, selects, and trains village level entrepreneurs (VLEs), who are financed by microfinance partner BASIX. Each entrepreneur is provided with a start-up kit and a micro-loan of 20-50 lights, which they sell to and recharge for their local customer base. In one week, a single entrepreneur can charge 300-400 Nuru Lights, sometimes earning more in an hour, than they previously earned in an entire day.
Nuru Energy’s impact has been significant. In Odisha, over 50% of testing households adopted Nuru Lights, and kerosene consumption decreased by over 38%. Not only has improved lighting increased household productivity and disposable income, but it has also minimized the risk of cancer and other diseases. Additionally, Nuru Energy’s microfranchise provides employment and skills training to both men and women. For decades, urban households have had access to electricity with the flick of a switch. Today, rural India is getting the energy they need through the light of the sun, and the power of a pedal.
Environmental Impact: Avoided use of fossil fuels, including avoided emission of GHGs and harmful substances
Measurement: Nuru Energy
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