At first glance, there would seem to be little or no connection between sustainable lighting and efforts to reduce global poverty. Residents who live in impoverished communities, however, might spend up to 10% of their already meager income on utility and energy costs to light their residences. Many of those residents also use inefficient kerosene lamps or lighting that burns other high-emission fuel sources, and those emissions often cause respiratory and other health problems. The World Bank reviewed this situation and realized that improving lighting in these communities can have a major effect on helping residents to escape from impoverished areas.
LED lighting is a key component in this process. Solar-powered LEDs can provide better illumination at a substantially reduced cost even for communities that have little or no connection to an electrical power grid, which may well be the case for remote regions that are distant from power plants. Immediate adoption of solar LED systems can reduce residential lighting costs by more than 60%. The initial cost of LED systems has also dropped dramatically over the past ten years with a concurrent increase in lighting efficiency.
LED Technology Leading the Fight
LED lighting developers and manufacturers are beginning to realize the potential for expanding their markets into these communities while simultaneously helping community residents to reverse the cycles of poverty. These companies are developing low-cost sustainable lighting products that are purchased and distributed by international aid organizations to individuals and families that are typically neglected when new products enter the market.
International non-profit organizations, such as Solar-Aid and the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association, are among the entities that have stepped into the void to help impoverished communities adopt solar-powered LED lighting systems. Solar-Aid has already delivered more than one million solar-powered lights to communities in Africa that have limited or no access to electrical grid power sources. The goal of these and other similar organizations is to teach people that using alternative power sources can reduce energy costs while providing better lighting and a healthier local environment. With more resources available for other uses, the theory is that those resources will be devoted, at least in part, to eradicating poverty.
Poverty will frequently exacerbate health problems due to a lack of access to health care and unhealthy environmental conditions. The use of traditional fuel sources, such as kerosene, has been linked to more than 1.5 million deaths per year as a result of fires and respiratory illnesses. As solar-powered LED lighting systems are distributed in communities that have previously relied on traditional sources, the expectation is that this fatality number will fall dramatically, thus further attacking the poverty problem.