SolarAid, an international development charity based in the UK, is making strides in achieving universal energy access in rural Malawi through its innovative model. The organization combines the latest technology with an affordable financing model and strong community operations to provide clean and safe solar lights to underserved communities in sub-Saharan Africa. In the second phase of their pilot project called Light a Village, SolarAid increased the number of homes serviced with solar lighting from 500 to 2500 in 2023.
The success of the pilot project has paved the way for SolarAid to plan its rollout across the country and other sub-Saharan African nations. The goal is to fast-track progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7) which aims to provide access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy for all. Currently, nearly 590 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity, and it is estimated that by 2030, 560 million people will still be without electricity.
Energy poverty in the region forces people to rely on toxic and polluting lighting sources such as kerosene lamps and paraffin candles, hindering development and causing fire-related accidents. Light a Village introduces an “energy as a service model”, wherein customers pay a utility provider for the electricity they use. This model ensures instant and affordable access to energy for lower income communities in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Light a Village project, funded through generous donations and matched funding from the Turner Kirk Trust, has successfully lit up 2500 homes in rural Malawi. The project has achieved energy access rates of up to 99% in targeted areas and has recorded high payment and usage rates. SolarAid’s CEO, John Keane, highlights the importance of this model in achieving universal energy access within the UN’s 2030 timeframe, stating, “This model demonstrates that it is possible to achieve universal access to energy within a short time frame, even within one of the poorest, most remote communities in the world.”
Residents of the villages where the solar systems have been installed express their joy and gratitude. Kenedy Buleya, a resident of Tambalasajiwa Village, describes the transformative impact of having solar power in their home. He shares, “Now that we have light in our home, we won’t need to use dangerous sources of light like straw fire. It’s also better for the environment to use solar power instead of burning things like straw.”
Sources: SolarAid, SDG7