Investments in this strategy aim to improve alternatives for personal lighting to reduce reliance on dangerous and expensive light sources, improve personal safety, increase time available for work and study, and decrease household air pollution. The sections below include an overview of the strategy for achieving desired goals, supporting evidence, core metrics that help measure performance toward goals, and a curated list of resources to support collecting, reporting on, and using data for decision-making.

What

Dimensions of Impact: WHAT

Investors interested in deploying this strategy should consider the scale of the addressable problem, what positive outcomes might be, and how important the change would be to the people (or planet) experiencing it.

Key questions in this dimension include:

What is the problem the investment is trying to address? For the people experiencing the problem, how important is this change?

Modern energy is critical for human well-being and economic development, but billions worldwide lack access to electricity or modern lighting. Although emerging-market countries are increasingly electrified, their governments often lack the capital needed to extend their power grids, keeping safe and consistent lighting out of reach for many of the world’s rural poor. Households with improved alternatives for personal lighting can use money formerly spent on kerosene to pay for other priorities, such as food and education (8). Increased productive hours gained through lighting can help children to extend time on activities that generate income, releasing further potential for economic development (also see the Improved Alternatives for Business strategy) (8). Lighting can also reduce risk of accidental fire and burns from kerosene lanterns. Finally, kerosene lamps globally consume 77 billion liters of fuel every year, emitting about 270,000 tons of black carbon (3, 4, 5). For example, access to clean and consistent sources of personal power and lighting can help end users and the environment by:

  • reducing reliance on dangerous, polluting lighting sources, including kerosene lamps, candles, and firewood;
  • reducing household expenditures on inefficient, low-quality, and expensive lighting, as households in developing countries currently spend between 10% and 25% of their income on kerosene alone (6);
  • increasing personal safety by reducing both the risk of accidental fires or burns from kerosene lamps and the number of hours women and children spend gathering fuel, an activity which studies have shown puts them at higher risk of harassment and violence;
  • reducing household emissions of black carbon and other harmful pollutants, which can both reduce respiratory disease and other health risks for end users and contribute to positive environmental outcomes.

What is the scale of the problem?

The International Energy Agency estimates that 1.1 billion people, or 17% of the global population and 90% of the African population, lack access to electricity (7). According to the United Nations, an average of USD 40 billion must be invested yearly until 2030 to solve this problem; if present trends continue, 16% of the world will still lack electricity by then. Although new technologies, such as solar, may allow emerging markets to leapfrog traditional grid systems, modern lighting remains beyond reach for the most impoverished communities.

Who

Dimensions of Impact: WHO

Investors interested in deploying this strategy should consider whom they want to target, as almost every strategy has a host of potential beneficiaries. While some investors may target women of color living in a particular rural area, others may set targets more broadly, e.g., women. Investors interested in targeting particular populations should focus on strategies that have been shown to benefit those populations.

Key questions in this dimension include:

Who/What is helped through this strategy?

Poor, Rural Communities: Rural areas have the least access to modern energy, and rural communities will likely stay poor if they remain without access to electrical power. Without access to light students cannot study at night, limiting educational attainment and contributing to the continuation of the poverty cycle.

Women and Children: Energy inequality disproportionately affects women and children, who spend the most time at home near kerosene lanterns and other sources of toxic fumes that put them at risk of developing respiratory diseases. For example, two-thirds of women with lung cancer in developing countries are nonsmokers. Women and children are also typically responsible for collecting firewood to burn, which can limit their time spent generating income and increase their exposure to dangerous or violence-prone areas.

The Environment: Since black carbon emissions from burned kerosene remain in the atmosphere for only a limited time, and because black carbon is the second-largest contributor to climate change, after carbon dioxide (CO2), controlling the use of kerosene could rapidly reduce warming effects on the atmosphere (1). For more on how personal lighting can help fight climate change, see the Reduced Reliance on Off-Grid Solid Fuels and Kerosene strategy.

What are the geographic attributes of those who benefit?

Of the 1.1 billion people without access to electricity, 85% live in rural areas or on the outskirts of cities. Grid electricity does not serve 90% of the African population, while electrification in sub-Saharan Africa barely keeps pace with population growth (2). Even generally electrified regions suffer from intermittent supply of electricity, with people continuing to rely on kerosene lamps for back-up lighting, especially in Africa and Asia.

Contribution

Dimensions of Impact: CONTRIBUTION

Investors considering investing in a company or portfolio aligned with this strategy should consider whether the effect they want to have compares to what is likely to happen anyway. Is the investment's contribution ‘likely better’ or ‘likely worse’ than what is likely to occur anyway across What, How much and Who?

Key questions in this dimension include:

Is the investment’s contribution ‘likely better’ or ‘likely worse’ than what is likely to occur anyway across What, How Much and Who?

Since solar and other clean-energy lighting products can be implemented at relatively low cost, using a decentralized model, and with payments structured in several ways that are accessible to the base of the pyramid, including pay-as-you-go, this strategy will likely produce contributions that improve on what would otherwise happen. The extent to which this strategy can improve alternatives for personal lighting depends on the specific investee business and the product they are bringing to market.

How Much

Dimensions of Impact: HOW MUCH

Investors deploying capital into investments aligned with this strategy should think about how significant the investment's effect might be. What is likely to be the change's breadth, depth, and duration?

Key questions in this dimension include:

How many can receive the outcome through this strategy?

The potential breadth of impact depends on the number of individuals in emerging markets who lack access to clean energy—roughly 1.1 billion people globally, as noted above, mostly in Africa and Asia.

How much change can beneficiaries experience through this strategy?

The amount of change end users derive from this strategy depends on the delivered product and the status-quo product replaced. Individuals currently relying on kerosene or solid fuels could see great improvement from cleaner and more reliable sources of light. However, while not all products or investments will have the same impact, examples of change from investments in this area include:

  • An evaluation of a solar-powered personal lighting product showed each household gained an average of 2.9 hours additional lighting for work, study, chores, and personal time per day (8).
  • On a survey of solar lighting customers in Tanzania, the average household saved 9% of their monthly income after the purchase of a solar light, savings which households then spent on food, school costs, and farming or business inputs (9).
  • A pilot study of micro hydropower plants in Bolivia found a 54% reduction in household expenditures for energy services and a 75% decrease in money flowing out of the community for energy services (10).

Illustrative Investment

d.light is a global leader in solar-powered systems for people without reliable access to electricity. The company was founded in 2007 with the purpose to eliminate kerosene lamps as the main source of personal lighting in emerging-market countries. d.light has developed a series of products ranging from single-use lanterns to more advanced, multi-function solutions and whole-home systems. Innovatively, d.light offers pay-as-you-go plans, and its lowest-priced devices sell for USD 8–10. Since solar lamps have multiple components that can occasionally break, all its products have a two-year warranty. Most of d.light’s employees are part of the rural communities they serve; d.light works with these communities to design products to best suit their needs. The company has sold more than 12 million solar products in 62 countries, improving the livelihoods of 65 million people and offsetting an estimated 23 million tons of CO2 (11). d.light has offices and distribution centers across the developing world, and they are currently planning a strategy to reach more remote regions by establishing partnerships with local organizations (12).

Draw on Evidence

This mapped evidence shows what outcomes and impacts this strategy can have, based on academic and field research.

NESTA: 1
Access to Clean Lighting and Its Impact on Children: An Exploration of SolarAid's SummyMoney

Esper, Heather, Ted London, and Yaquta Kanchwala. “Access to Clean Lighting and Its Impact on Children: An Exploration of SolarAid’s SummyMoney.” Child Impact Case Study 4 (2013).

NESTA: 1
Capturing the Multiple Benefits of Energy Efficiency: Roundtable on Industrial Productivity and Competitiveness

OECD/IEA. 2014. Capturing The Multiple Benefits Of Energy Efficiency: Roundtable on Industrial Productivity and Competitiveness.

NESTA: 3
Access To Energy In Rwanda: Impact Evaluation Of Activities Supported By The Dutch Promoting Renewable Energy Programme

Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 2014. Access To Energy In Rwanda: Impact Evaluation Of Activities Supported By The Dutch Promoting Renewable Energy Programme. IOB Evaluation No. 396.

NESTA: 2
Stiftung Solarenergie (Sts) & Hybrid Social Solutions (HSSi) - Social Impact Assessment

Planète d’Entrepreneurs. 2011. Stiftung Solarenergie (Sts) & Hybrid Social Solutions (Hssi) – Social Impact Assessment.

NESTA: 2
Impact Assessment of the Solar Electricification of Health Centers in Uganda

Harsdorff, Marek, and Patricia Bamanyaki. “Impact Assessment of the Solar Electrification of Health Centers.” Kampala, Uganda: GIZ (2009).

NESTA: 3
Impacts of Solar Lanterns in Geographically Challenged Locations: Experimental Evidence from Bangladesh

Kudo, Yuya, Abu S. Shonchoy, and Kazushi Takahashi. Impacts of Solar Lanterns in Geographically Challenged Locations: Experimental Evidence from Banglades. No. 502. Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), 2015.

NESTA: 2
A Comparative Risk Assessment of Burden Disease and Injury Attributable to 67 Risk Factors and Risk Factor Clusters in 21 Regions, 2990 - 2010: A Systematic Analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010.

Lim, Stephen S., Theo Vos, Abraham D. Flaxman, Goodarz Danaei, Kenji Shibuya, Heather Adair-Rohani, Mohammad A. AlMazroa et al. “A Comparative Risk Assessment of Burden of Disease and Injury Attributable to 67 Risk Factors and Risk Factor Clusters in 21 Regions, 1990–2010: A Systematic Analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010.” The Lancet 380, no. 9859 (2013): 2224-2260.

NESTA: 1
Identifying and Reducing the Health and Safety Impacts of Fuel-Based Lighting

Mills, Evan. “Identifying and Reducing the Health and Safety Impacts of Fuel-Based Lighting.” Energy for Sustainable Development 30 (2016): 39-50.

NESTA: 2
Micro Hydro Power Plants in Andean Bolivian Communities: Impacts on Development and Environment

González, A. Hueso, A. B. Aristizábal, and R. M. Díaz. “Micro Hydro Power Plants in Andean Bolivian Communities: Impacts on Development and Environment.” In International Conference on Renewable Energies and Power Quality, Valencia. 2009.

NESTA: 3
Electricity and Sustainable Development: Impacts of Solar Home Systems in Rural Bangladesh

Blunck, Michael. “Electricity and Sustainable Development: Impacts of Solar Home Systems in Rural Bangladesh.” (2007): 43.

NESTA: 2
Lighting the Way: The Role of Handheld Solar Lamps in Improving Women's and Girls' Perceptions of Safety in Two Camps for Internally Displaced People in Haiti

International Rescue Committee. 2014. Lighting the Way: The Role of Handheld Solar Lamps in Improving Women’s and Girls’ Perceptions of Safety in Two Camps for Internally Displaced People in Haiti.

NESTA: 1
Off-Grid Solar Market Trends Report, 2016

Global, Lighting, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Off-Grid Solar Market Trends Report 2016.” Bloomberg New Energy Finance and Lighting Global in cooperation with the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA) (2016).

NESTA: 1
Accelerating Access to Electricity in Africa with Off-Grid Solar: The Impact of Solar Household Solutions

Harrison, K., A. Scott, and R. Hogarth. “Accelerating Access to Electricity in Africa with Off-Grid Solar: The Impact of Solar Household Solutions.” Overseas Development Institute ODI Report (2016): 9.

NESTA: 2
Application of Environmental Assessment Related to GIZ ECO Micro Hydropower Plants in the Sidama Zone/Ethiopia

Meder, Katharina, Olaf Bubenzer, and Marcus Nüsser. “Application of Environment Assessment Related to GIZ ECO Micro Hydropower Plants in the Sidama Zone/Ethiopia.” PhD diss., MSc Thesis, Heidelberg University, 2011.

NESTA: 1
Social Impact Assessment of BBOXX in Uganda

Enea Consulting. 2012. Social Impact Assessment Of BBOXX In Uganda.

NESTA: 3
d.light Solar Home System Impact Evaluation

IDinsight, USAID, Shell Foundation, UKAID. 2015. d.light Solar Home System Impact Evaluation.

NESTA: 2
Self-reported Impacts of LED Lighting Technology Compared to Fuel-based Lighting on Night Market Business Prosperity in Kenya

Johnstone, Peter. “Self-Reported Impacts of LED Lighting Technology Compared to Fuel-Based Lighting on Night Market Business Prosperity in Kenya.” Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (2009).

NESTA: 3
The Impact of Solar Lights on the Individual Welfare and Fishing Productivity of Liberian Fishermen

Smith, William. “The Impact of Solar Lights on the Individual Welfare and Fishing Productivity of Liberian Fishermen.” (2014).

NESTA: 2
Welfare Impacts of Rural Electrification: Evidence from Vietnam

Barnes, Douglas French, Shahidur R. Khandker, Minh Huu Nguyen, and Hussain A. Samad. Welfare Impacts of Rural Electrification: Evidence from Vietnam. No. 5057. The World Bank, 2009.

NESTA: 3
A First Step up the Energy Ladder? Low Cost Solar Kits and Household's Welfare in Rural Rwanda

Grimm, Michael, Anicet Munyehirwe, Jörg Peters, and Maximiliane Sievert. “A First Step Up the Energy Ladder? Low Cost Solar Kits and Household’s Welfare in Rural Rwanda.” The World Bank Economic Review (2016): lhw052.

NESTA: 3
Powering Impact Phase 1 Report

Powering Impact. 2014. Powering Education Project Phase 1 Report.

NESTA: 2
Solar Lamps Field Test in Uganda: Final Report

Brüderle, Anna. “Solar Lamps Field Test in Uganda: Final Report.” German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) (2011).

NESTA: 2
Off-Grid Energy Services for the Poor: Introducing LED Lighting in the Millennium Villages Project in Malawi

Adkins, Edwin, Sandy Eapen, Flora Kaluwile, Gautam Nair, and Vijay Modi. “Off-Grid Energy Services for the Poor: Introducing LED Lighting in the Millennium Villages Project in Malawi.” Energy Policy 38, no. 2 (2010): 1087-1097.

NESTA: 2
Affordability and Expenditure Patterns for Electricity and Kerosene in Urban Households in Tanzania

Mnenwa, Raymond, and Emmanuel Maliti. The Affordability and Expenditure Patterns for Electricity and Kerosene in Urban Households in Tanzania. Research on Poverty Alleviation (REPOA), 2011.

NESTA: 2
Connective Power: Solar Electrificaion and Social Change in Kenya

Jacobson, Arne. “Connective Power: Solar Electrification and Social Change in Kenya.” World Development 35, no. 1 (2007): 144-162.

NESTA: 3
Impacts of Rural Electrification in Rwanda

Bensch, Gunther, Jochen Kluve, and Jörg Peters. “Impacts of Rural Electrification in Rwanda.” Journal of Development Effectiveness 3, no. 4 (2011): 567-588.

NESTA: 2
Quantifying Carbon and Distributional Benefits of Solar Home System Programs in Bangladesh

Wang, Limin, Sushenjit Bandyopadhyay, Mac Cosgrove-Davies, and Hussain A. Samad. “Quantifying Carbon and Distributional Benefits of Solar Home System Programs in Bangladesh.” (2011).

NESTA: 1
Black Carbon and Kerosene Lighting: An Opportunity for Rapid Action on Climate Change and Clean Energy for Development.

Jacobson, Arne, Tami C. Bond, Nicholoas L. Lam, and Nathan Hultman. Black Carbon and Kerosene Lighting: An Opportunity for Rapid Action on Climate Change and Clean Energy for Development. The Brookings Institution, Washington, DC (United States). Global Economy and Development, 2013.

NESTA: 1
From Carbon to Light: A New Framework for Estimating Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction from Replacing Fuel-Based Lighting with LED Systems

Mills, Evan, and Arne Jacobson. From Carbon to Light: A New Framework for Estimating Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions from Replacing Fuel-Based Lighting with LED Systems.” Energy Efficiency 4, no. 4 (2011): 523-546.

NESTA: 3
Rural Lighting in Kenya (forthcoming)

Innovations for Poverty Action. 2017. Rural Lighting In Kenya. Accessed July 12.

Each resource is assigned a rating of rigor according to the NESTA Standards of Evidence.

Define Metrics

Core Metrics

This starter set of core metrics — chosen from the IRIS catalog with the input of impact investors who work in this area — indicate performance toward objectives within this strategy. They can help with setting targets, tracking performance, and managing toward success.

Additional Metrics

While the above core metrics provide a starter set of measurements that can show outcomes of a portfolio targeted toward this goal, the additional metrics below — or others from the IRIS catalog — can provide more nuance and depth to understanding your impact.