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Akhila Vijayaraghavan headshot

Washington Non-Profit Lights Up the World One Village at a Time

Solar energy is one of the most widely available forms of renewable energy, especially in the developing world where plenty of sunshine is available. Around the world, 1.5 billion people still live without access to power. This is where the Washington based, non-profit organization Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) comes in. SELF believes that energy independence is a way out of poverty and they are working to design and implement "sustainable energy solutions for enhancements in health, education, agriculture and economic growth in the developing world."

The organization improves access to solar power and wireless communication in rural villages in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. They also develop electrification projects for the whole village, water pumping and purification, drip irrigation, health clinics (including vaccine refrigeration), schools, household and community lighting, and income-generating micro-enterprises. These can be scaled up through PPPs or even through the private sector alone.  

SELF works with the government, local NGOs and industry partners in the countries of their operations and they have projects in more than 20 countries including Bhutan, Benin, Brazil,Burundi, ChinaHaitiIndiaIndonesia, Lesotho, Navajo Nation, Nepal, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Vietnam. Sometimes, SELF is the only organization that undertakes similar project and without their help, many villages will remain in the dark.

They also help organizations become carbon neutral through offsets. SELF installs around 1,000 photovoltaic systems a year, thereby replacing the use of kerosene and diesel. This reduction itself prevents about 6 tons of CO2 entering the atmosphere. This is pretty remarkable because developing countries have the tremendous potential to power themselves using renewable energy and SELF is showing how to do this one village as a time.

There are several ways in which people can support the organization - either by donating or partnering with them. By working holistically from ground-up in villages, SELF gives people a way out of poverty with clean energy, communication systems and access to drinking water. In several countries with acute power shortages, SELF works with villagers and farmers to decentralize renewable energy thereby making villages independent from the grid. In many ways, this system of self-sufficiency works out better and tends to be more reliable than depending on the national grid.

With developing countries already struggling under the threats of pollution, biodiversity loss and climate change, renewable energy can act as a beacon towards development and a means towards access to modern technology.

Image Credit: Solar Panel, Wikimedia Commons 

Akhila Vijayaraghavan headshotAkhila Vijayaraghavan

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also http://www.thegreenden.net

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