PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The International Energy Agency asserts that poor-access to modern energy services stunts both economic and social development. Globally, more than 1.3 billion people lack reliable electricity. Those who live off the grid often rely on kerosene and wood for light, leading to a number of environmental and health issues.
When the devastating earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, Jacques-Philippe Piverger and John Salzinger helped rebuild the Haitian communities and saw firsthand the negative environmental, economic and health effects of fuel-based power. Moved by their experiences in Haiti, they decided to find a sustainable and long-term solution to energy poverty.
Piverger and Salzinger are co-founders of MPOWERD, a benefit corporation that fights energy poverty by producing affordable and novel products like Luci, an innovative line of solar-powered lamps. Luci lights are sold to both individuals and large retailers; MPOWERD also partners with nonprofit organizations to bring their products to those who need it in the developing world. Within the first 20 months, Luci lanterns were distributed to more than 250 domestic retailers and shipped to 50 developing nations.
Weighing just four ounces, Luci is small but powerful; each unit contains 10 LED lights capable of providing 15 square feet of light at 80 lumens. A typical Luci light can last between six hours to 12 hours after solar charging its lithium-ion battery for eight hours. In addition to a flashing mode option, there are two different brightness levels. Each Luci lamp reduces 320 kg of CO2 emissions from the atmosphere annually.
Because Luci is portable and waterproof, it is also suitable for those who need emergency lights after a natural disaster or other catastrophe. American campers and backpackers can buy a Luci lamp for $25 domestically, and MPOWERD sends a free Luci light to someone in the developing world each time a unit is sold in the United States. However, MPOWERD mainly hopes to target those who live completely off the grid and lack electricity.
From a financial standpoint, those living in developing countries benefit tremendously from Luci lamps. The cost for kerosene lamp fuel accumulates to approximately $5 to $20 per month. By replacing traditional kerosene lamps with Luci lamps, people could save a hundred dollars in the first year alone. A recent GlobeScan report noted that 98 percent of Haitian users prefer Luci lights over kerosene lamps. In addition, around 90 percent of families experienced a decrease in respiratory problems and eye irritation after switching to Luci lamps.
Piverger and Salzinger have also implemented a “Solar Justice” movement through MPOWERD. With the support of its Solar 100 Ambassadors, MPOWERD is committed to distributing Luci lights to anyone living in energy poverty. The Give Luci initiative encourages customers to buy the Luci lights at discounted prices and allow various NGO project partners to distribute the lamps to developing communities around the world.
In the near future, Piverger and Salzinger plan to make Luci available in Europe and Australia. They also hope to introduce a variety of new solar-powered products in order to engage the public in the fight to end energy poverty. As Piverger wrote, “energy is empowerment.”