Solar-powered lanterns equipped with LEDs have eliminated more than 20 million traditional lighting sources, primarily kerosene lanterns, according to a new report from the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA) and International Finance Corporation.
The semi-annual report shows a steady and significant uptick for the most basic form of electricity access: modern lighting.
Solar lamps with an output of 3 watts or less made up more than 90 percent of total sales just one year ago, but that has dropped to 77 percent as multi-light solar systems have grown fivefold. The lamps also often come with mobile charging.
The growth in sales is likely an extremely conservative number, as the data is limited by the input of GOGLA member companies. Among the 50 respondents, however, are some of the largest names in the global energy business, such as Schneider Electric, Total and Philips, as well as quickly growing startups like d.light, Bboxx, M-KOPA and Off Grid Electric.
East Africa and India are the largest markets, making up nearly 90 percent of the revenue for solar lanterns. The figures do not include revenues from pay-as-you-go micro-solar systems, as many companies did not want to disclose revenue data.
In future reports, GOGLA hopes to include more revenue data from companies that offer pay-as-you-go systems. However, these systems (about 20 to 50 watts in size) make up just a fraction of the volume of products sold.
The report also highlighted some of the near-term challenges, particularly working capital, counterfeits and supporting policy. The report noted that Tanzania and Ethiopia saw constraints in working capital that temporarily dried up the markets and led to a bevy of counterfeit products. Requirements for local testing by the Ethiopian government also hampered sales in Ethiopia this year, while more positive policy has driven an uptake in sales in Nigeria, Benin and Rwanda.
Check out the stories below for more on the startups trying to transform the off-grid electrification market.