Lighting up lives – Bridging the energy divide

Every year more than US$10 billion is spent each year on kerosene for lighting in the homes of the poor in developing countries. The light from kerosene burning is of poor quality, expensive and outright dangerous. Nearly 4 million suffer from severe burns from open fires and kerosene lighting each year. According to W.H.O. more than 1.6 million people die from indoor air pollution related diseases.

Enter Barefoot Power

Barefoot Power began in 2005 when co-founders Stewart Craine and Harry Andrews saw the opportunity to reduce poverty in countries at the base of the economic pyramid (BoP) by providing communities with access to energy and, therefore, providing them with one of the necessary steps to eliminate poverty and propel economic development.

The Solution

Barefoot Power has developed solar LED based solutions which provide 5-15 times more light than kerosene based alternatives. The payback for these solar lighting solutions can be as little as 3-6 months. Besides lighting, Barefoot Power also provides solar based phone charging solutions.

To ensure good quality products, Barefoot Power designs and develops its products in Australia and works closely with manufacturers to set high quality standards throughout the development and manufacturing process. Barefoot Power provides a 1 year guarantee on all product components – including, solar panel, battery, SMD LEDs, and wire.

Innovation in the Business Model

Barefoot Power’s innovation is in having an innovative grassroots level distribution system.

By providing technical training & business consulting to its partners, Barefoot Power empowers micro entrepreneurs, importers, dealers, NGOs and other players in the distribution chain. This support helps to build awareness and accessibility for the solar solutions ultimately, meeting its social objective to impact communities by supplying them with renewable, safe energy alternatives.

As part of the distribution chain, Barefoot Power has a network of “Service Centers” which provide certified technical support for importers, dealers and consumers. Access to this post sales service is instrumental in responding to the needs of Barefoot Power’s partners as well as acts as a localized source to honor warranty claims.

Eradicating Energy Poverty

The expandable nature of Barefoot Power’s renewable-energy product line means poor communities can make incremental cash investments to build their power systems watt by watt.

These communities spend the equivalent of 3-6 months of previous expenditure on kerosene and batteries. Not only do they realize health and safety benefits from using solar-powered products, but their savings enable them to move up the product range and gradually support an expanding electricity infrastructure. With low entry costs, Barefoot Power has developed a depth of products.

By bringing electricity to millions of people that currently use kerosene lighting and walk far for phone and battery charging, Barefoot Power plans on reversing the traditional process of rural electrification while reducing the global carbon footprint.

Global Plans

Barefoot Power is now a global, social for-profit enterprise that manufactures and distributes solar phone charging, lighting products and business development services.

Over 1.5 billion people lack access to electricity; Barefoot Power is on a mission to bring affordable renewable energy and efficient lighting to five million people by 2013 and 10 million people by 2015 and help eradicate energy poverty.

With the additional focus gained from their new investor, the Sustainable Enterprise Fund managed by ennovent, Barefoot Power is currently restructuring its Indian business in order to address specific issues within the market aimed to build on the good presence gained over recent years. The company plans to evaluate and expand on the existing pilot programs in schools and also with the centralized charging stations, as part of its renewed India strategy.

This article originally appeared on the Mahindra Rise blog and was contributed by ennovent.


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