NURU Energy has been awarded the prestigious UNEP Sasakawa Prize 2009 for bringing kerosene free lights to rural communities in Rwanda.
“We are very proud to win this award and it will help us in our mission to replace the use of kerosene as a source of lighting,” Julio de Souza, Chief Operating Officer of Nuru Energy in Rwanda said in a press statement yesterday.
It is estimated that 94 percent of the Rwandan population has no access to electricity and majority are forced to use ad-hoc solutions such as kerosene lamps. Unfortunately this is an expensive, unhealthy, dangerous and environmentally unsound solution.
“Rwandese households spend on average one third of their income on kerosene. Kerosene fumes because a variety of respiratory ailments, especially in children, and it emits large quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere. In addition, it is also responsible for 25 percent of household-fire accidents each year”, Souza said.
According to the press statement, Nuru Energy’s solution to these problems is the modular lighting system ‘NURU’ (meaning “light” in Swahili), which is a grid-independent, affordable, clean and safe system that offers lighting anywhere at any time.
Together with its Rwandan microfinance partner, Urwego Opportunity Bank, the initiative is now setting up a system for distribution, which not only provides lights to people, but also offers an income possibility for rural households.
“For the first time, customers are not forced to buy an expensive charging system. Instead, they only buy the light and pay just $0.27 to local entrepreneurs for each charge which gives up to 40 hours of light compared to $1.75 for one litre of kerosene, which lasts only thirteen hours,” the statement reads in part.
The organisation says that currently 60 entrepreneurs from local cooperatives are being trained.
Urwego Opportunity Bank will provide an asset loan to each entrepreneur of 100-200 lights to sell and one POWER Cycle pedal generator to start his/her own recharging station, the statement reads.
The entrepreneur will then have six months to pay back the loan to Urwego, using the revenue generated from selling each light and from charging customers for each charge.
By the end of 2010 Nuru Energy and Urwego Opportunity Bank are aiming at having established more than 400 micro franchises in Rwanda and sell 60,000 lights.
Nuru energy plans to expand operations throughout the East African Community and entering a market of about 120 million consumers.