[ASC-media] Australian solar lights reach Pakistan flood refugees
niall at scienceinpublic.com.au
Mon Mar 12 02:02:34 CET 2012
Melbourne inventors create a $10 solar light that generates carbon credits and transforms lives
A Melbourne invention is brightening the lives of hundreds of thousands of flood refugees in Pakistan by bringing them sustainable solar light.
The governments of Britain, the USA, Japan and the EU have all bought the new lights and supplied them to refugees via the International Organisation for Migration.
The life-transforming solar light was invented by an economist based in Melbourne who was working in the energy industry.
"We created this light for the billion people who live off the grid and survive on less than a dollar a day. Buying fuel for a kerosene lamp can take a third of their income, the kerosene fumes are polluting, and the lanterns often start fires," says Shane Thatcher, the chairman and CEO of illumination, which he founded in 2010.
The new solar light, called Mandarin Ultra, costs less than $10 a unit delivered. It's water-resistant, bright, long-lasting, robust and "fit-for-purpose". The light's creators have combined smart technology, good, simple design and economics to tackle a perennial problem for poor people across the world - life stops at dusk unless you've got light. The light costs around a week's income, but that's a fraction of the cost of alternatives. And it's a one-off investment that will last for at least three years.
The Mandarin Ultra, has been quietly selling for two years and is already being used by communities across Africa, south Asia and south-east Asia. But the purchase of 20,000 lights by the British Department for International Development (DFID) just before Christmas was a game-changer. A series of orders followed and as of today, 80,000 lights have been delivered to the Sindh Province in Pakistan.
"In the past refugees sometimes were given kerosene lights, but when the fuel runs out, it's difficult to buy in the camps. And the lamps are crude and dangerous - fires are common.
"The solar lights transform life in the camps. Children can read, and women and children can move around the camps more safely at night."
It costs a fraction of competing designs because it was designed with the income level of the target customers and the generation of UN accredited carbon credits in mind.
"What makes the lights affordable is the generation of carbon credits as the lights are sold and used. We worked with our alliance partner, CarbonSoft (a Standard Bank joint venture) on the complex accreditation program," says Liz Aitken, illumination's CFO.
illumination is continuing to improve the lights, which are made in China to tight specifications.
And more affordable, smart devices are on the way.
"Mobile phones are dramatically changing how the poor and remote communities farm, trade and access health and other government services. But many communities in Africa for example have no access to power. So people may have to walk many kilometres and then pay for access to a charger. We think we can change that," says Shane.
§ Shane Thatcher, shane at illuminationsolar.com, 0409 875 584.
§ Niall Byrne from Science in Public, 0417 131 977, niall at scienceinpublic.com.au<mailto:niall at scienceinpublic.com.au>
§ More information at www.scienceinpublic.com.au
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