Social enterprise to provide 10 million with access to renewable energy

23 May 2012

New York – Ten million low-income people living in rural communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, will gain access to low-cost solar energy by 2015, in part due to a commitment made by solar energy provider Barefoot Power  to the Business Call to Action (BCtA).

The BCtA is a global initiative that encourages private sector efforts to fight poverty, supported by several international organizations including the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

The Australia-based social enterprise Barefoot Power aims to expand access to its high-quality, energy efficient, affordable light-emitting diode (LED) lamps, home lighting systems and phone chargers, to more off-grid communities with expansion in Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria and India as a focus by 2015. The company has already captured the majority market share in East Africa.
Through the commitment made to BCtA, the company estimates that the 10 million consumers will reduce kerosene consumption by 100 million liters and save up to US$600 million in fuel costs by 2015. By then, Barefoot Power expects to help reduce carbon emission by up to one million tonnes.

“We at the BCtA recognize that Barefoot Power’s commercially viable business model enables access to affordable solar energy for low income communities, helping to light up Africa in an environmentally sustainable way,” said Business Call to Action Programme Manager Susan Chaffin. “These are precisely the types of inclusive business initiatives that serve as best practices as we approach the Rio+20 UN Sustainable Development Conference being held in Brazil in June.”

More than 80 percent of low-income communities in rural sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity and depend on expensive, dirty and dangerous fuel sources such as kerosene, charcoal, animal waste or wood. According to the World Health Organization household air pollution from the use of biomass fuel annually causes 2 million premature deaths across the globe.

Barefoot Power aims to reduce the lack of energy access for millions of people by bringing its durable solar-powered products directly to low-income consumers through a variety of distribution channels such as import companies and local micro entrepreneurs.

The micro entrepreneur programme includes a “business in a bag” training, meaning that entrepreneurs are trained in business best practices, solar technology and how to develop sales channels in order to create income generating energy franchises. Innovative financing mechanisms are also offered to assist importers with up front capital requirements.

“Barefoot Power’s award winning Trade Financing Fund has revolutionized the business. Importers have access to funding for ordering Barefoot Power products and can overcome the capital constraints in order to meet the increasing demand in the communities.” said Rick Hooper, CEO of Barefoot Power.

Since its launch in 2005, Barefoot Power has helped to train over 2000 entrepreneurs and technicians in rural communities with financial support from the European Union. These entrepreneurs help make Barefoot Power’s products accessible to all communities, while the technicians help to uphold the Barefoot Power post sales product guarantee.

Contact Information

Barefoot Power:  Johanna Baker-Dowdell, Strawberry Communications
Tel: +61 477 000 170;  E-mail: johanna@strawberrycommunications.com.au

BCtA: Teodora Berkova,Tel:  +1 (212) 906-5194;
E-mail: teodora@businesscalltoaction.org,