Philips teams with Dutch government to provide off-grid LED lighting

Philips has signed a public-private partnership (PPP) agreement with the Dutch Government, which will see the development of a new generation of sustainable, LED-based, solar-powered lighting products for sub-Saharan Africa.

The new PPP agreement aims to provide 10 million people in 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa with affordable, appropriate and sustainable energy solutions and services by 2015.

As part of the agreement, the Dutch government will provide funding for awareness creation and entrepreneurial training, as well as support for finance mechanisms and project management. Philips in turn commits to provide a balanced investment in new product development for African people and households deprived of access to modern energy services.

Gerard Kleisterlee, President and CEO of Philips said in a recent speech, "The rural lighting markets for low income people in developing countries, is not very well known or explored. It is essential that governments and international organizations such as the World Bank, NGOs [non-government organizations] and various companies get together in a network to work out appropriate business models."

Philips is also involved in Lighting Africa, the World Bank Group initiative to provide modern lighting to the 250 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa who have no access to electricity. Jointly managed by the IFC and the World Bank, Lighting Africa aims to develop market conditions for the supply and distribution of new, non fossil fuel lighting products, such as fluorescent light bulbs and LEDs, in rural and urban areas of the region that are not connected to the electricity grid.

At the Lighting Africa 2008 event held in May in Ghana, 16 companies and organizations were awarded up to $200,000 to implement projects that offer affordable, clean, safe, off-grid lighting and that improve access to lighting for people living without electricity across the region.

Today an estimated 500 million Africans live without electricity. For these people, nighttime means either darkness or the flickering light of a candle or kerosene lamp. However as prices of oil have risen dramatically during the past few years, very few can now afford the kerosene they need. As a result, when the sun goes down, life simply comes to a stop for hundreds of millions of people. Work and other economic activities stop, and children don’t do homework. Quality of life is also affected. In these cases self powered and solar powered lighting solutions really make a difference.

Part of the solution can come from a new generation of solar-powered lighting systems. Philips has recently been testing a new solar "Uday" lantern, a compact lighting system that provides bright white light and is charged by the power of the sun. Each day's charge will provide 250 lumens (the equivalent light of 250 candles) for 4-5 hours.

Benefits of new solar lighting solutions include significant cost savings, less fire risk compared with kerosene-type lanterns, no direct carbon footprint and the use of a sustainable natural commodity (sunlight or manpower) to generate electricity. In addition there are economic and social benefits from being able to undertake activities in the evening hours.

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