An estimated 100,000 people in rural India are receiving several hours of solar-powered lighting every night thanks to a United Nations-led pilot project that is set to expand to a number of other developing countries.
"The project underlines the multiple benefits accruing by providing clean and renewable energies in developing countries," said UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner.
Its success "should also serve as a catalytic blueprint for similar schemes across the developing world and lead to the scaling up of renewable energies everywhere," he added.
The $1.5 million pilot, managed by UNEP, has already inspired a sister effort in Tunisia, where the market for solar water heaters has been shifted from cash to credit, with over 16,000 systems financed. Similar programmes are planned for China, Indonesia, Egypt, Mexico, Ghan a, Morocco and Algeria.
Even a few hours of 20 to 40-watt solar-powered lighting in homes and small shops nightly has been credited with better grades for schoolchildren, better productivity for needlework artisan groups and other cottage industries, and even better sales at fruit stands, where produce is no longer spoiled by fumes from kerosene lamps, UNEP said.
Behind these quality-of-life upgrades is an innovative UN-led project to persuade Indian bankers to finance small loans for solar systems typically $ 300 to 500 for a system to power two to four small lights or appliances.