24 June 2013, Nairobi – At Sibanga market, 10 kilometres (6 miles) outside the town of Kitale in western Kenya, Timothy Nyongesa walks into the Mibawa Suppliers shop to collect a gadget that he hopes will brighten his children’s studies and his family’s health.
In exchange for an initial payment of 1,000 Kenyan shillings (about $12), Nyongesa walks out with a kit that will generate solar energy at his home. He jumps on his bicycle and snakes along a footpath to his village of Sinyerere, 6 km farther into the countryside.
Nyongesa’s family is one of more than 3,000 in the Kitale area who since 2011 have switched to solar power instead of using kerosene lamps to light their homes.
“I cannot have my children study using a kerosene tin-lamp when those in the neighbourhood are using electricity from the sun,” he said.
The solar kits, which aim to scale up access to solar power for Kenya’s poor, are marketed using an instalment plan that puts the 10,000-shilling (about $120) pack within reach of people with modest incomes. After an initial deposit of 1,000 shillings, the user makes weekly payments of 120 shillings ($1.40) for 80 weeks before fully owning the system.
Scratch cards with codes enable the purchaser to make their payments securely from home via SMS – using their mobile phone that can be kept charged with the solar kit.
The innovative effort, by Azuri Technologies, a UK-based company that developed and manufactures the IndiGo solar kits, on Thursday was named a winner of the 2013 Ashden Awards, considered the world’s leading green energy prize. The awards recognise innovations that promote sustainable energy to reduce poverty and tackle climate change.
“It has been tremendous to see the appetite for IndiGo,” said Simon Bransfield-Garth, chief executive officer of Azuri Technologies. “At the same time, we are acutely aware of the scale of problem we are attempting to tackle and so all our effort is on growing to reach as many customers as possible.”
In a statement at the launch of a new report on markets for renewable energy, Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, said that uptake of renewable energies was continuing to increase globally as countries, companies and communities saw the opportunities to capitalise on low-carbon economies and the potential for future energy security and sustainable livelihoods.