Clean Power little sun solar lamp

Published on April 30th, 2014 | by Adam Johnston


Bloomberg Philanthropies Provides $5 Million To Boost African Off-Grid Solar Lamps

April 30th, 2014 by  

Little Sun: A Light for Everyone from Little Sun.

Bloomberg Philanthropies is assisting in bridging the gap on two African problems — clean affordable energy and reducing energy poverty — with their latest investment.

They announced recently $5 million in low-interest loans to Little Sun, a social enterprise which will help bring solar energy to off-grid Sub-Saharan Africa with low-cost solar lamps, which will replace lamps using kerosene, a dangerous hydrocarbon liquid.


Image Credit: Africa Satellite Map via WikiCommons

“Today, seven out of ten people lack access to even the most basic electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa. Over the next 20 years, Africa is poised to hold the world’s largest un-electrified population,” said Little Sun managing Director and CEO Felix Hallwachs.

little sun solar lamp

Image Credit: Little Sun

“The impact investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies will help us reach our goal of providing clean energy to homes, schools and local businesses, replacing toxic kerosene lamps everywhere we work. We consider access to clean, safe and sustainable energy a fundamental human right,” he said.

Kerosene is often used by Africans not on the grid to light their homes and cook their food. However, its use causes concerns on three levels: price, health, and environmental.

First, kerosene is expensive to use, taking up to 20% of a household budget. Second, it’s a severe health hazard. Four hours of kerosene toxins is equal to smoking 40 cigarettes. Lastly, kerosene emits high levels of carbon emissions, up to 200 million tons annually, or equal to 60 US coal plants. Add these three problems together, and its easy to understand why energy poverty-stricken Africa is looking for cleaner alternatives.

The International Energy Association noted that 95% of Sub-Saharan African or developing Asia lack electricity or proper cooking facilities. Little Sun hopes with its effective design and affordable costs (anticipating a 90% reduction in prices over a three-year span, compared to kerosene) will entice those in one of the poorest areas of the world to go solar.

“Too many families are forced to breathe in toxic kerosene fumes because they don’t have access to electricity. Solar-powered lights can improve their health — and at the same time, protect our environment — by keeping pollutants out of the air they breathe,” said founder of Bloomberg Michael Bloomberg.

“Little Sun is bringing clean, safe, affordable light to people who don’t have it today.”

As solar costs continue to fall, off-grid areas, including lots of the Sub-Saharan African region, will see the spillover effects, and may in the future finally escape energy poverty.

Check out more on the Little Sun website.

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About the Author

Is currently studying at the School of the Environment Professional Development program in Renewable Energy from the University of Toronto. Adam graduated from the University of Winnipeg with a three-year B.A. combined major in Economics and Rhetoric, Writing & Communications. Adam also writes for Solar Love and also owns his own part time tax preparation business. His eventual goal is to be a cleantech policy analyst, and is currently sharpening his skills as a renewable energy writer. You can follow him on Twitter @adamjohnstonwpg or at

  • LookingForward

    a good start
    But Bloomberg can easily afford 5 million annually and that would help alot more, in more areas.

    • Bob_Wallace

      The great thing about micro-solar is that once the project is kick-started it becomes self maintaining. The customers pay a retail rate for the systems which means that installers can earn a living and purchase the gear they need to install more systems.

      Bloomberg is not the only one supporting micro-solar. The programs have become quite successful and it looks like finding the needed capital for expanding is not hard to locate.

      Bangladesh now has over 2 million micro-solar systems in place. The Grameen Bank was the funding source for the most successful of the micro-solar projects and now other countries and agencies are looking at how the Bangladeshi system works as they build up their programs.

  • Bloomberg should also invest in the Gravity Light.

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