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The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has entered into a partnership with the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA) and Germany's Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development (BMZ) have launched a new initiative which aims to help West African countries shift to energy-efficient, off-grid lighting.
According to UNEP, 76% of the population in West Africa lack access to electricity and spends up to 20% of the household budget on kerosene for lighting. Efficient off-grid lighting systems are available in the region and can deliver high performance, affordable and better quality lighting.
BMZ is providing support to UNEP to facilitate the development of a regional policy to enable the penetration of sustainable off-grid lighting solutions in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region. GOGLA will contribute to this initiative by providing industry insight to assist with the development of policies and programmes.
UNEP has conducted a study which assessed 80 countries on the economic and environmental gains that could be achieved through a shift to solar-powered alternatives.
The studies show that if Kenya, for example, replaced all fuel-based lighting with solar-powered light emitting diode (LED) systems, the costs would be repaid in only seven months as a result of major fuel savings. Kenya currently spends around US$ 900 million per year on off-grid lighting.
"Replacing the world's 670 million kerosene lamps with cleaner, safer solar-powered lighting represents a major opportunity to deliver across multiple fronts, from cuts in global carbon emissions, health risks from indoor air pollution, support for green technologies and the generation of green jobs," said UN Under Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
"UNEP's new partnership with GOGLA strengthens our ongoing work with some 50 developing countries and leading lighting companies to move away from incandescent and other inefficient light bulbs. Supporting both sustainable off-grid and on-grid lighting can bring about major financial savings in a short time, as well as additional educational, health and environmental benefits towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals," added Steiner.
Wolfgang Gregor, Secretary-General of the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA) commented: "We want to ensure that decision-makers and government officials are aware about the importance of modern off-grid lighting solutions and recognize the potential of this multi-billion dollar market. This will lead to the implementation of policies that address product quality standards and environmental issues and create sustainable employment."
In addition to saving money and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, UNEP adds that by phasing out kerosene lamps and candles it will greatly reduce risks from burns, fires, and respiratory illnesses caused by indoor smoke.
UNEP notes that solar LED systems tend to have a higher initial cost than traditional fuel-based lamps, however, the payback period can be very short due to the high running costs of fuel-based lighting systems.
The UNEP assessments show that the payback period in most countries is less than a year, and sometimes just a matter of months, depending on the cost of the LED system and the local price of kerosene.