Multiple Benefits of Country Transitions to Solar & Energy-efficient Lighting

Solar lighting can provide an increasingly low-cost solution to reducing carbon emissions, indoor air pollution and health risks, as well as boosting green jobs, according to new country lighting assessments carried out by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) which looks at replacing the millions of kerosene lamps, candles and flashlights used worldwide. 
Solar Lighting UNEP

Photo: UNEP.


UNEP also announced today a new strategic partnership with the private sector to facilitate a market shift towards energy-efficient, off-grid lighting and to reduce the estimated 74 million tons of annual carbon emissions from fuel-based light sources commonly used in developing countries. The collaboration with the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA) will see the launch of an international effort to accelerate the deployment of enabling policies towards sustainable off-grid lighting. To underscore the new partnership, the UNEP-led en.lighten initiative has unveiled new national assessments for 80 countries on the economic and environmental gains that can be achieved through a shift to solar-powered alternatives. 

“GOGLA is the industry advocate for promoting clean, quality off-grid lighting systems that benefit society and businesses in developing and emerging markets,” said Wolfgang Gregor, Secretary-General of the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA). 

The studies show that if Kenya, for example, replaced all fuel-based lighting with solar-powered light emitting diode (LED) systems, the costs would be repaid in only seven months, due to major fuel savings. Kenya currently spends around US$ 900 million per year on off-grid lighting, and fuel-based light sources in the country are responsible for over 2.3 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions per year.

“Replacing the world’s 670 million kerosene lamps with cleaner, safer solar-powered lighting represents a major opportunity to deliver across multiple fronts, from cuts in global carbon emissions, health risks from indoor air pollution, support for green technologies and the generation of green jobs,” said UN Under Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

Participants from Liberia and Malawi at the end of their six-month solar engineering course

Participants from Liberia and Malawi at the end of their six-month solar engineering course. Photo via UN Women Gallery/Flickr.

“UNEP’s new partnership with GOGLA strengthens our ongoing work with some 50 developing countries and leading lighting companies to move away from incandescent and other inefficient light bulbs. Supporting both sustainable off-grid and on-grid lighting can bring about major financial savings in a short time, as well as additional educational, health and environmental benefits towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals,” added Mr. Steiner.

Country Lighting Assessments Highlight Significant Savings

UNEP has conducted the the first studies of their kind to analyze the magnitude of financial savings, health benefits, development and carbon emission reductions that a coordinated global transition to modern and sustainable off-grid lighting solutions can deliver.

According to UNEP, over 1.3 billion people globally live without access to electric light and some 25 billion litres of kerosene are used annually to fuel the world’s kerosene lamps, which costs end-users a total of up to US$23 billion each year. This has an even higher price tag if government subsidies are taken into account.

If Nigeria used modern off-grid lighting solutions, according to the UNEP assessment, the country could save over US$1.4 billion annually. Replacing all of the kerosene, candles and batteries used annually for off-grid lighting would save Nigeria the equivalent of 17.3 million barrels of crude oil. In addition to saving money and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, phasing out kerosene lamps and candles greatly reduces risks from burns, fires, and respiratory illnesses caused by indoor smoke.

Eliminating the need for flashlights powered by disposable batteries will also greatly reduce hazardous waste disposal in landfill and related environmental damage. Although solar LED systems have a higher initial cost than traditional fuel-based lamps, the payback period can be very short due to the high running costs of fuel-based lighting systems.

The UNEP assessments show that the payback period in most countries is less than a year, and sometimes just a matter of months, depending on the cost of the LED system and the local price of kerosene.

Look at our directory of solar lighting providers in Africa more more information.

Tags: ,

One Response to “Multiple Benefits of Country Transitions to Solar & Energy-efficient Lighting”

  1. eticaret February 28, 2013 at 8:10 am #

    Wonderful essay, got the satisfaction of studying

Leave a Reply