The notoriously small amount of electricity available in Africa and India is now being addressed, thanks in part to the steady growth of energy entrepreneurs who happen to be selling electrical power by peddling bicycles.
A recent BBC program on The Forum featured the bicycle, and interviewed numerous business people, including Sameer Hajee, CEO at Nuru Energy, an international social enterprise targeting the global problem of energy poverty prevalent in Africa and India.
It is estimated more than 700 million people across Africa alone have little or no access to energy, with some 400 million residents of India facing similar energy poverty.
Seed funded by the World Bank in 2008, Hajee markets affordable LED lamps that can be easily recharged using a human-powered generator — in other words, pedal power. While bicycle-powered technology like this has been around for a while, what is most noteworthy about this platform is how it allows individuals to operate as independent businesses that provide people with needed electricity at a reasonable fee.
Nuru Energy co-created a unique off-grid recharging platform using human power to recharge both Nuru Energy’s portable LED Lights as well as other low-power devices, such as radios and mobile phones. According to the company, its Nuru POWERcycle is the world’s first commercially available pedal generator. It requires minimal human exertion (60 rotations per minute), and charges up to five Nuru Lights (NL1s) simultaneously in approximately 20 minutes.
The solar lantern is said to burn for 28 hours and can be recharged from multiple sources. Theses are impressive numbers for potential customers who have had to suffer through the toxic odors from kerosene lanterns. Nuru Energy adds these considerations:
“It is extremely efficient producing enough energy for 420 minutes of light for every minute of easy pedalling. Because it is human-powered, the POWERCycle is not affected by unpredictable weather conditions and can therefore recharge products anytime, anywhere.”
The POWERCycle not only provides reliable and clean power anytime, the company states this product is hundreds of times more efficient than current solar-based solutions. Plus it comes at a fraction of the cost. This is of particular importance where poverty levels are as extreme as they are in Africa and India.
Nuru Energy claims to use a “bottom-up approach” for every product it develops and the way in which products go to market. “We work with local organizations to recruit and train micro-franchise entrepreneurs, Nuru Energy Entrepreneurs, who sell Nuru’s LED lights to their community and then offer POWERCycle recharging services for a small fee, typically earning in 20 minutes what they previously earned in an entire day.”
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