Here's an interesting figure for you: 1.8 billion people in the world today live without any access to electricity. Can you imagine Europe without any electrical power at all (Germany, France, UK, Italy, Spain ...)? Well, Europe's population is only 0.74 billion! We're talking about masses of people in developing areas of the world left with little possibility of coming out of their poverty cycle, as we all know the electric power is absolutely vital for human development in today's world.
Even though they are not connected to any power supply people still spend 25-30% of their income on energy. Most use small kerosene lamps, which provide very little light, they use poor quality batteries to play radios, which only last a few days and contaminate local water supply. People are forced to travel long distances and pay to charge their phones every week. Many use car batteries to have light at home but still they need to transport these batteries every few days to a place where they pay to have them recharged. All these options are very expensive for poor families.
The technology available today doesn't leave the 1.8 billion people hopeless because even though they may not be connected to any main power supply there are other ways of providing the much needed electric current into their homes; solar energy being one of them.
Solar energy is free of charge. The only expense is a panel which catches that energy and a converter that can then change this energy into an electrical current suitable for domestic use. Due to high energy consumptions the solar solutions in the West are quite costly, however, in areas of the world where electricity usage is minimal much cheaper options are available.
One of the recent companies to introduce an excellent domestic solar panel for developing countries is Tough Stuff. A little panel (tough as a rock) and a battery installed in a lamp can provide light for hours after the sundown. The same panel can charge mobile phones and power up radios.
At World In Need we see the great need in all the countries where we work but we also see opporotunities to enhance the development of those communities. Currently we are in the process of introducing the Tough Stuff solar panels into Northern Ugandan displacement camps on microfinance conditions. If this partnership proves fruitful then we will take the idea to other countries. We are also working on bigger projects of trying to use the solar energy to power up some of the schools we support. That would enable us to teach children computer classes, have lessons after dark and would put the schools at the centre of technology in their local communities. Alternative sources of energy may just be an answer not only to our planet's atmosphere but also to over a billion people living without any electricity today.