NURU Energy is replacing expensive, dangerous, and unhealthy kerosene in rural Rwandan households by introducing a cheap, safe, and clean night lighting solution, known as the NURU Light. The for-profit social enterprise believes that the solution to the developing world’s lighting crisis must be market-based with the mission of creating an affordable light that the world’s poor not only want, but can afford.
Why does Rwanda Need An Efficient Night Lighting System?
Most of Rwanda’s rural population uses kerosene for their lighting needs. Kerosene is hazardous for human health and the environment. It is a fossil fuel that burns with noxious fumes and according to the World Bank, 780 million women and children breathing kerosene fumes inhale the equivalent smoke from two packs of cigarettes per day. To make matters worse, in NURU’s countries of operations, kerosene-based lighting systems result in over 25 million tons of carbon dioxide every year.
The Poor Man’s Energy Paradox
The kerosene lantern is not only inefficient, it is also EXPENSIVE! Get this! According to NURU,
“The amount of light from the lamp is only about 1% of what the people in industrialized countries have for the same price and is only 0.2% as strong as a 60 watt light bulb.”
In the words of C.K. Prahalad, University of Michigan professor and author of The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid:
“[the poor’s] sources of energy are dirty and inefficient, and on a per-kilowatt basis they cost anywhere from 5-100 times more than modern fuels and electricity. The paradox is that the poor are spending a disproportionate share of their income on a product that richer people can get cheaper and of high quality”.
The NURU Light is a Market-Based Solution to a Lighting Problem
The NURU light takes into account the different needs of the rural households it serves, creating a useful product that is:
- Multifunctional: The NURU light is very versatile and can be positioned in a number of ways according to the need; It can go from free-standing to being strapped around the neck or head. It can be mounted or hung or even connected with more units to form a room light. It has a 4 position switch for high, medium, low, and off.
- Efficient: Rechargeable NiMH battery which when fully recharged produces 25 hours of light (low), 18 hours of light (medium), or 9 hours of light (high) – about 3-7 days of light – in just 20 minutes of charging! The result is a 375:1 use to charging ratio, compared to just 1:1 with solar.
It is bright (uses white LED lights), affordable, modular (the user can use them separately or connect them together to create a brighter light) and durable.
How Can A NURU Light be Recharged?
Depending on the situation and electricity availability, the light can be charged in three ways-
- POWERcycle– NURU Light has developed the world’s first commercially available pedal generator. Unlike wind and solar, the pedal ensures that power is always available. The POWERCycle can charge up to five lights at once in just twenty minutes of pedaling. Because the POWERCycle is easy to operate, even children can use it.
- POWERgrid– Almost two billion people have access to electricity for only a few hours a day. With the POWERGrid, a plug-in charging system, customers can charge five lights at once when they have access to electricity and use the NURU Lights when the power is out.
- POWERsolar- NURU Light has also developed a solar panel that can charge up to five lights at once. This clean and efficient lighting system allows customers to charge their lights during the day and use them at night.
NURU Light Encourages Social-Entrepreneurs and Makes Lighting Cheap
Sameer Hajee co-founder and CEO of NURU Energy says,
“We are setting up a network of rural lighting entrepreneurs who sell or rent out NURU lights and then recharge customer’s lights for a small fee using the world’s first commercially available pedal generator”
The distribution model is based on helping local residents to start small businesses that rent out and recharge lights. NURU’s practice is to partner with micro lenders — financial institutions that make small loans to citizens— in order to teach and help would-be entrepreneurs become NURU franchisees.
NURU Energy is a great example of a for-profit social enterprise, who view the whole picture, thus creating effective, market-based solutions to help communities in dire need. Their innovative ideas are improving the lives of thousands, sustainably, while lowering their footprint. What do you think? Aren’t stories like these truly inspiring?
Image credit: NURU Light