By: Iben Bjørgulf Antonsen
High quality equals higher reliability
Lets take a small trip to rural Kenya. Away from flickering city lights, neon signs and buzzing intersections. Here, in the off-grid community with no access to electricity, light is often lit up through low quality, status quo, lighting sources such as kerosene lanterns, battery torches and candles.
The cost of kerosene varies greatly depending on where and how it is sold, but in average the off-grid Kenyan household pay 20 times more for lighting with kerosene compared to on-grid consumers, according to Lighting Global Off-Grid Solar Market Trends Report 2018 (p. 38). Calculated in price per kWh, off-grid and unreliable-grid households pay astonishing 1.000 times more per kWh compared to on-grid consumers.
On average households in Kenya spent 10 per cent of the total annual income on lighting without a solar lamp. Having a solar light, spending on light drops to only 1 per cent, according to Lighting Global Off-Grid Solar Market Trends Report 2018 (p. 169). If the off-grid household in Kenya replaced their kerosene lantern with the BRIGHT SunBell solar lamp, the estimated annual savings on energy related spending would be USD 102, according to Gogla Impact Metrics for BRIGHT.
Number of mobile phone users expected to pass 5 billion by 2019
Living off-grid does not mean being cut off modern technology. On the contrary, an estimated 90 per cent of the population (corresponding to 41 million mobile subscriptions) in Kenya have a mobile phone, according to the quarterly sector statistics report by the Communications Authority of Kenya (p. 2) at the end of 2017. Globally, the number of mobile phone users is expected to pass five billion by 2019, according to The Statistical Portal. Without access to electricity and capability to charge phone at home, people are forced to travel long distances to reach the charging point and pay a high fee for charging and transportation, which can amount t USD 25 per month in some cases. according to Off-Grid Solar Market Trends Report 2018 (p. 38).
Altogether the Kenyan off-grid-household spends up to USD 241 annually on kerosene and other unclean energy sources for light and phone charging, according to Lighting Global (p. 38). Globally this amounts to USD 27 billion on lighting and mobile phone charging, according to Gogla Sales and Impact Report H1 2017 (p. 2).
Considering how the off-grid consumers typically live with a daily income of less than USD 2 per day being at the base-of-the-pyramid, (BoP) paradoxically they pay the highest price for lighting and charging.
Low-cost vs. quality-verified solar lamps
Having access to light and charging has become an important necessity for all people around the world. Over 130 million off grid solar devices (OGS) have been sold to date since 2010, according to Lighting Global estimates from 2018 (p. XIV). Hystra, the global consulting firm, expresses in the report Reaching Scale in Access to Energy from 2018 how cheap and low-quality products represent a growing segment of the OGS market (p. 32).