Bloomberg Philanthropies has announced a $5 million investment in Little Sun, a social business focused on getting clean, reliable, affordable light to the 1.6 billion people worldwide without access to electricity.
The low-interest loan, Bloomberg Philanthropies' first-ever impact investment, will enable the company to expand its efforts to distribute portable solar-powered lamps in sub-Saharan Africa. Designed by artist Olafur Eliasson, each lamp works for two to three years before it needs new batteries and can save households up to 90 percent over three years compared with what they would have spent on kerosene, the primary source of light for many households in the region. The relatively low cost of a Little Sun lamp also allows profits to be collected by entrepreneurs who sell the lamps in their communities.
Households in Africa that are unconnected to the electrical grid can spend up to 20 percent of their budgets on kerosene, which is expensive and unhealthy to breathe. According to Bloomberg Philanthropies, inhaling kerosene fumes for four hours is equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes. Moreover, it is estimated that global kerosene is responsible for up to 200 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually — roughly equivalent to the output from sixty large coal-fired plants in the U.S.
"Today, seven out of ten people lack access to even the most basic electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. Over the next twenty years, Africa is poised to hold the world's largest un-electrified population," said Little Sun managing director and CEO Felix Hallwachs. "The impact investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies will help us reach our goal of providing clean energy to homes, schools and local businesses, replacing toxic kerosene lamps everywhere we work. We consider access to clean, safe and sustainable energy a fundamental human right."