Great Energy Challenge Innovator: Solar Sister

Project: Clean Energy From a Women's Grassroots Entrepeneur Network

Location: Gulu, Uganda

Summary: Solar Sister is an award-winning social enterprise combining the breakthrough potential of portable solar technology with an Avon-style women-driven last mile distribution model to bring light, hope, and opportunity to even the most remote communities in Africa. In doing so, Solar Sister provides both the "geographical" access to people in rural areas and "cultural" access to women living with the acute consequences of a wide gender technology gap. (See also: How to bring a sense of poetry to the mission for clean energy.)

Through an innovative use of the micro-consignment model, Solar Sister reduces the business start-up risk for women by providing the financial capital needed to acquire an inventory of portable solar lights, mobile phone chargers, and radio chargers. Equipped with a "business in a bag" and training, Solar Sister entrepreneurs use their social capital to meet the huge unmet demand for basic electricity while improving public health, children's education, the local economy and contributing to climate change mitigation. (See related story: "Low Cost Solar Brightens Lives in the Developing World.")

The Great Energy Challenge is supporting Solar Sister to recruit, train, and launch 150 Solar Sister entrepreneurs in northern Uganda. Only six percent of Uganda's population has access to electricity. In rural areas, which form 84 percent of the population, electricity access is as low as one percent. Solar Sister's northern Uganda scale up will bridge a vital gap in clean energy supply chains in this conflict affected region, bringing the benefits of clean energy to more than 60,000 people over next year, which in turn will mitigate 27,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions and displace the use of 9.9 million liters (2.6 million gallons) of kerosene.

Goal: To unlock the power of women's enterprise to provide access to clean energy technologies in underserved communities in vulnerable environments.

Project Participants:

  • Katherine Lucey, founder and CEO
  • Neha Misra, chief collaboration officer
  • Evelyn Namara, country director
  • Jayne Opitto, regional coordinator, Gulu

The Great Energy Challenge grant program, in collaboration with a distinguished group of scientists acting as the board of advisors, awards roughly a half-dozen grants per year. The goal of the grant program is to hasten the growth of promising, global energy solutions as a response to climate change, energy resource constraints and environmental limitations.

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