I and my colleagues at SolarAid and SunnyMoney are deeply grateful to all the many and varied stakeholders who made this award possible, most of whom have the dubious privilege of receiving my periodic e-mails. To all the SolarAid supporters who fund SunnyMoney – from Canadian elementary schools, via round-the-world-cyclists, to many other people and organisations along the way – we thank you for the trust you place in us. To our teams in the field, present and past, we thank you for your passion, which the SolarAid London team see every time we visit SunnyMoney operations. To our colleagues in Solarcentury, present and past, we thank you for all your brilliant work, which helps us so much via the 5% of annual profits you donate to us. To our colleagues in Yingli Green Energy, we thank you for the thrilling daily experience of our partnership, and the hopes we share for the solar lighting products we are developing.
But we receive this award in extreme humility. Because the fact is that we consider that we, and indeed the rest of the global community, have failed to date to make much of a dent in the huge problem we exist to defeat. Fully 1.2 billion people still languish without electricity in our world today, many of them forced to use lethal, polluting, and expensive kerosene. The global solar lighting industry has only sold some 30 million quality-verified solar lights, anywhere, ever. Yet a solar light can cost as little as $5 and last 3-5 years, while kerosene in contrast costs nearly $80 every year, in the areas where we work. And then there are the carbon savings. Some companies have an internal cost of CO2 that is in double or even triple digits USD, yet a $5 solar light costs us some $5 to deliver for sale, and it offsets fully one tonne of carbon dioxide.
And, notwithstanding these beyond-no-brainer economics, in dollars and tonnes, global sales of solar lights actually fell in 2016. How can the global community, with all our focus on Global Development Goals, explain our collective failure, in the face of the enormous savings we could unlock for the poorest of the poor? There are people and organisations reading this note who could eradicate the use of kerosene for lighting within a matter of years if we worked together with seriousness of intent. I very much hope to be to working with you in new alliances, with renewed determination, in the year ahead.
More on this thought in due course, for those with the continuing stamina to read my communications. I leave for a tour of SolarAid’s African operations on 16th July. I will file a series of blogs as I contemplate the challenges and opportunities of the mission from the front lines.
I apologise to readers of my periodic “big picture” blogs on the climate/energy/information nexus for my failure to keep up with play of late. I am keeping up with my reading, but can find no time to write. As someone once said, normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. Maybe.