Energy and informality: Powering change

Seventy-nine percent of people living in developing countries — a quarter of humanity — don't have access to electricity. Of those who do, many acquire it illegally, leading to financial, legal, and safety issues. Sustainable, plentiful, and affordable energy is a global issue, but it reaches even greater importance in the developing world, where the question of affordability is critical. Programs working on energy in the context of informal urban communities often offer ways to provide electricity in slums, or focus on giving the poor incentives to obtain power legally. Read on to see how the question of energy and informality is addressed in six cities across the globe — then join the conversation in the comments below.

 

Carlin Carr, Mumbai Community ManagerSimple steps toward lighting Mumbai's settlements

Carlin Carr, Mumbai Community Manager

Electrifying informal communities in Mumbai provides an essential foundation for all other development endeavors. "Electricity is vital, not only for its direct benefits on health and welfare, but also because it can serve as a gateway for other kinds of development by means of increased access to information, facilitation of education, and reduced workload for certain mechanical tasks," writes David Schaengold in a 1996 paper that makes the case for wind and solar power in Mumbai slums. While many slum areas have access to electricity, the illegal connections come through middlemen who charge exorbitant rates. The hefty price tag leaves many still in the dark for many hours of the day.

Tailors, dry cleaners, and woodworkers with home-based micro-businesses spend long hours in their small workspaces, and despite having tube lights in their dwelling, the cost forces them to labor in the dark all day. A group of students from Mumbai's St. Xavier's College heard about a simple, affordable lighting solution being experimented with in other parts of the world and decided to test it in Mumbai's slums. The idea is to take 1.5 liter plastic bottles, fill them with water and bleach and then seal the container with glue to secure the elements inside for five years. The students then hoist the bottles from a hole they drill in shack rooftops so that the bottle is half inside and half outside. The principles of refraction of light allow sunlight, as it passes through the bottle, to illuminate the inside of the houses. As long as the sun is out — in Mumbai, nearly the entire year — the homes will have full days of free light.

Of course, this solution is not the full answer to electrification in slum communities. The refraction process only works during the day, and since the students only piloted the project a few months ago, the bottles have yet to endure a monsoon season. The rains not only take a toll on rooftops, but many slum communities add plastic covers over their homes for extra protection. However, Radhika Lokur, one of the four founders of Jal Jyoti — the name they've given to their bottle-lighting initiative — sees this innovative approach as a quick, low-cost, and environmentally friendly approach to illuminating lives.

In the few months since launching Jal Jyoti, the group has installed 23 bottles in three different settlement communities in Mumbai. One widow to whose home they brought light said she woke up to sunlight for the first time in her life. Her one-room shack has no windows and had no opportunity for natural light until the bottle was installed. It's these stories that have excited the small team, which will soon double its size and engage a small army of 100 volunteers through the university. Lokur says that their goal is to involve the community — their own at St. Xavier's as well as the slum communities. Their approach is to train local residents in the process of installation, using bottles from local recyclers who collect the plastic from trash-choked shorelines and, eventually, charging nominal fees for the entire procedure. Their 1.5 liter bottles of hope beg the question: why aren't more simple, low-cost solutions to basic services being piloted all around the city — or are they?

Julisa Tambunan, Jakarta Community ManagerSetrum mudah dan hemat

Julisa Tambunan, Jakarta Bureau Chief

Greater Jakarta accounts for 20 percent of the country's power use. However, with informality dominating its urban landscape, electricity is not evenly distributed across the city. Facilitating access to alternative energy for the low-income population in informal settlements thus becomes crucial. Studies show that for now, most street vendors take lighting expenditure for granted, but any reduction in the cost of energy will have a direct bearing on their profit margins. Therefore, energy diversification is needed now more than ever.

Penggunaan energi di Jakarta masih belum mengusung asas berkelanjutan. Khusus untuk penerangan saja, kota berpenduduk mencapai 10 juta orang ini menguasai 20 persen sumber daya listrik negara. Padahal kenyataannya, pembagian listrik di Jakarta tak merata, mengingat banyaknya pemukiman informal di seluruh pelosok kota. Pencurian listrik bukan hal aneh lagi. Kabel-kabel listrik yang menjuntai tak beraturan juga menimbulkan ancaman bahaya tersendiri.

Macam-macam Pasokan Energi

Listrik di DKI Jakarta sebagian besar dipasok oleh Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN / Perusahaan Listrik Negara). Secara umum, listrik tersedia untuk semua rumah tangga di wilayah Jabotabek dan permintaan meningkat setiap tahun. Namun, layanan ini tidak stabil, karena masih sering terjadi pemadaman bergilir atau fluktuasi tegangan. Belum lagi pemukiman informal yang tentu tak mendapat aliran listrik, sehingga kasus-kasus pencurian listrik banyak terjadi.

Sementara itu, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), minyak tanah, batu bara, dan biomassa dalam berbagai bentuk merupakan bahan bakar utama yang digunakan oleh rumah tangga Jakarta. Penggunaan batubara tak signifikan di kalangan rumah tangga, namun sangat umum digunakan oleh perusahaan komersial kecil seperti produksi tahu dan tempe. Minyak tanah bersubsidi sebelumnya tersedia di mana-mana dengan bandrol Rp 3,000 per liter, namun kebijakan subsidi ini kemudian dihapus oleh pemerintah dengan harapan masyarakat akan berpindah ke LPG, sehigga sekarang harganya mencapai Rp. 10,000 per liter. LPG pun makin banyak digunakan di Jakarta untuk memasak. Namun, LPG sendiri bukan tak menimbulkan masalah. Tabung gas sering dbilang "bom waktu" oleh masyarakat yang tinggal di pemukiman padat, karena sering meledak dan menimbulkan korban.

Menurut data Badan Pusat Statistik, pengeluaran bulanan rumah tangga miskin untuk keperluan energi adalah sejumlah sekitar Rp. 112,280, lebih dari setenganya dihabiskan untuk biaya listrik saja. Jika demikian, artinya memang sudah waktunya Jakarta mencari sumber-sumber energi baru yang lebih murah dan berkelanjutan. Namun, siapakah pemasoknya? Jika sektor swasta diharapkan untuk turut serta memecahkan masalah ini, apakah ada pangsa pasarnya?

Pangsa Pasar: Pedagang Kaki Lima

Menurut data Badan Pusat Statistik (BPS), ada 92.751 pedagang kaki lima yang beroperasi di DKI Jakarta pada tahun 2005. Tak ada data pasti jumlah pedagang kaki lima saat ini, mengingat statusnya yang informal. Namun, jumlahnya dianggap terus berlipat-lipat setiap tahunnya. Pedagang kaki lima yang berjualan di malam hari membutuhkan penerangan yang baik, karena berpengaruh pada pendapatan harian mereka. Kasus yang banyak terjadi adalah para pedagang kaki lima ini akhirnya melakukan sambungan listrik liar atau mencantol secara ilegal. Tapi tak melulu seperti itu. Baterai basah dan kering sering digunakan untuk penerangan di kalangan pedagang kaki lima.

PLN Distribusi Jakarta Raya dan Tangerang yang khawatir akan sambungan-sambungan listrik liar pun siap meluncurkan program LISKO atau listrik koin untuk para pedagang kaki lima yang siap diluncurkan dalam waktu dekat. Hanya dengan Rp. 1,000, konsumen bisa menikmati listrik berdaya 900 watt selama 30 menit. Jika habis, tinggal masukkan koin baru. Persis seperti penggunaan telepon umum.

Sementara itu, salah satu perusahaan energi raksasa pun mulai menyasar para pedagang kaki lima untuk memasarkan produk lampu solar yang merupakan teknologi berkelanjutan. Lampu solar tersebut dinilai jauh lebih efektif dari segi biaya dan mampu menggantikan lampu neon bertenaga baterai (atau sambungan liar) yang umum digunakan para pedagang.

María Fernanda Carvallo, Mexico City Community ManagerComercio informal en el DF dependiente de los "diablitos"

María Fernanda Carvallo, Mexico City Community Manager

Illegal extraction of energy is one of the main informality problems in Mexico City. According to the Federal Electricity Commission, the theft of energy in the Mexico City Metropolitan Area results in losses of more than seven hundred million dollars a year. Informal electricity merchandisers, known as "devils," face a plethora of time-consuming and expensive requirements if they are to be regularized under the government's framework, and therefore make a living instead by obtaining electricity outside the legal and regulatory framework. Beyond the obvious legal issues, this unregulated electricity merchandising can overload facilities and lead to fire and electric shock.

En México, la distribución de la energía es responsabilidad del Estado por medio de la Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), sin embargo el sector energético representa un atraso en la infraestructura, por lo que los precios del servicio no son competitivos. Ante la necesidad de tan valioso insumo y la vulnerabilidad de la población, el robo de energía es uno de los grandes dilemas de la Ciudad; de acuerdo a la CFE el robo de energía eléctrica en la ZMVM se traduce en pérdidas por nueve mil millones de pesos al año. Además del latente peligro por la sobrecarga de las instalaciones que son causa potencial de incendios y descargas eléctricas.

La extracción ilegal de luz es una más de las problemáticas derivadas de la falta de medios de vida sustentables de los comerciantes, pues bien para regularizarse deben de establecerse bajo los permisos y requerimientos de la Delegación, el pago de una renta de un local y de los servicios básicos, así como el pago de los impuestos respectivos por la actividad comercial. Ante esta problemática, los comerciantes ambulantes generan estrategias para generar alguna actividad que permita obtener un ingreso sin comprometer su actividad económica bajo el esquema normativo y legal.

En la delegación Miguel Hidalgo, se instaló el llamado diablito a uno de los transformadores de la CFE, por medio del cual se establecen conexiones ilegales para la extracción de luz. Instalado en el Metro Tacuba, más de 300 comerciantes del tianguis se encuentran conectados al mega diablito.

Bajo la lógica de que el estado debe de proveer este servicio de manera legal, la CFE inició un operativo para desconectar las instalaciones ilegales de la colonia Tacuba, y de acuerdo a las autoridades delegaciones y dirigentes del tianguis, una estrategia de regularización del servicio fue la inversión de 10 millones de pesos de la remodelación del tianguis para hacer fijos los puestos y dotarlos de tomas regulares de electricidad, así como el pago por el servicio por parte de los comerciantes bajo un esquema tarifario fijo. No obstante, entre el grupo de comerciantes se ha encontrado resistencia para transitar a un esquema formal, pues de evadir el pago de la luz ahora tendrían que pagar una tarifa comercial, por lo que a pesar del operativo de eliminación del mega diablo, los comerciantes han vuelto a conectarse a la luz de manera ilegal a través de diablitos distribuidos en los transformadores aledaños de la zona.

A nivel federal, una vertiente del programa Oportunidades brinda un apoyo adicional a la población en condiciones de pobreza a través de la entrega de $50 pesos bimestrales para el pago de la luz de los hogares; si bien este apoyo no está dirigido a la actividad comercial, puede ser un ejemplo para el desarrollo de iniciativas de apoyo energético dirigida a los comerciantes en proceso de regularización.

Catalina Gomez, Rio de Janeiro Community ManagerAffordable electricity in Rio's low-income communities

Catalina Gomez, Rio de Janeiro Community Manager

Illegal electricity connections are not uncommon in many places around the developing world, especially within low-income communities, and Rio de Janeiro is no exception. With recent infrastructure programs benefiting several favelas, basic services like water and electricity that once were scarce are now available to many. Now that Rio has achieved good coverage of basic services, the next big challenge is how to provide them at an affordable price, and how to give low-income families incentives to "become legal" and pay for their services.

Expanding electrical access to low-income families is a national priority in Brazil. A key element is making the service more affordable, as well as encouraging a culture of payment for basic services among low-income residents. That is why in early 2010, the federal government launched a subsidy called Tarifa Social de Energia Elétrica (TSEE), which benefits more than 10 million families annually, from all across the country.

The purpose of the TSEE is to offer discounts from their electricity bills to families that earn up to half of the monthly minimum wage (R$622, equivalent to USD$311) per capita. The discount ranges from 10 percent to 65 percent, depending on the level of "legal" consumption. (If the monthly consumption is less than 30 KWh, the discount is 65 percent; if it is less than 100 KWh, the discount is 40 percent; and if it is less than 220 KWh, the discount is 10 percent.) An average discount for a low-income family that consumes less than 65 KWh per month is around R$25 (USD$13), which, for example, allows them to buy several additional kilos of beans.

In order to receive the TSEE benefits, families need to be registered with the registry for social programs, called Cadastro Unico. This is the same registry system as for Bolsa Familia, the well-known conditional cash transfer program that benefits more than 13 million low-income Brazilian families. This integrated data base is a fundamental part of the management of services targeted to the poor, as it allows agencies to avoid duplication of efforts and encourages better targeting. Once the family is registered at the Cadastro Unico, it only needs to provide its registry number to the local energy company to be eligible for the electricity subsidy.

LIGHT, the local energy company, has reported that around 150,000 families benefit from the subsidy (mostly in Rio de Janeiro). Still, there need to be greater efforts to reach more families (there are an estimated 400,000 families in the state of Rio that are eligible, but who aren't benefiting from the program). That is why the local government, through the Municipal Social Assistance Secretariat and LIGHT, is currently promoting an "active search" of families who aren't yet benefitting from the subsidy. This search is done mostly through home visits, conducted by teams of LIGHT employees and representatives from 44 social assistance centers from all over the city. Eligible families can also benefit from the program Efficient Communities, which offers families education on how to save energy in their homes. In addition, the program provides free fluorescent bulbs and other energy-saving appliances, including new refrigerators that require less energy consumption.

Although there is still much work to be done in reaching families eligible for electricity subsidies and education initiatives, Rio is "lighting" its way to expanding affordable electricity, as well as reducing illegal connections.

Victoria Okoye, Lagos Community ManagerCreating opportunities from challenges: Exploring energy alternatives off the grid

Victoria Okoye, Lagos Community Manager

In the last decade, Lagosians have grown accustomed (and even adapted) to the city's widespread and consistent power outages, which can last minutes, days, or even weeks. The impact – lack of power and the alternative, reliance on costly generators – cripples daily activities for residents, businesses, and industries, even the city's international airport. Despite its estimated electricity demand (12,000 MW), the whole of Lagos State, including its metropolis, receives less than 1,000 MW from the national power grid. That said, Lagos consumes between 40 and 45 percent of the nation's entire energy. It's Lagos that is also largely responsible for the country's overall carbon footprint.

Extending a reliable energy supply to all the city's residents is a long-term goal. In the meantime, individuals and even the state government explore their own solutions.

For entrepreneurial youth, the energy supply challenge marks a business opportunity. Across the city, mobile phone-charging stations have cropped up in markets and motor parks. For this business venture, set-up requires as little as a small generator for power and a multi-socket dashboard. Relatively low market-entry costs and the general demand for phones are two factors making this a thriving business. Visitors can come to the shop or station, leave their handset, and pick it up later, fully charged.

In Agege, operators say they started out charging 50 Naira to charge a phone; in a day, they were able to make more than 3,000 Naira through the business.

A second intervention is a recently launched waste-to-energy initiative by the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA). In December 2012, the LAWMA announced its pilot activity generating energy from waste produced at Ikosi Market, the city's largest fruit and vegetable market. This year, LAWMA plans to expand to other markets in the city.

In the waste-to-energy process, waste is stored, then transferred to a combustible chamber where the contents is heated. The heat from the combustion process boils water, and the steam produced can be used directly to generate electricity, or to power a turbine that in turn produces electricity. The electricity can then be distributed to the local power grid.

According to a Siemens report on Lagos as part of its African Green City Index, the city generates an estimated 276 kilograms of waste per person each year. However, the report estimates that only 10 percent of waste generated in the city is collected, and then transferred to either the city's three landfills or two temporary sites. Proper collection and management of waste could go a long way toward supporting future opportunities to convert it to alternative sources of energy.

Although effective waste management in the city is still a challenge, waste-to-energy production kills several birds with one stone: the process produces clean energy with reduced greenhouse gas emissions; it supports the recycling of biomass and other wastes; and it provides an energy alternative in lieu of consistent shortages.

Katy Fentress, Nairobi Community ManagerThe challenges of making recycled coal affordable for the poor

Katy Fentress, Nairobi Community Manager

Chardust Ltd. is a Nairobi-based company that for over a decade has pioneered the technique of converting discarded or unusable charcoal waste into fuel briquettes.

The company sources its raw material from local dealers and retailers. Charcoal that is less than one centimetre in diameter is generally impossible to sell on the market due to the fact that it falls through the grills of jikos (commonly used Kenyan charcoal burners) and is thus mostly useless for sale at a retail level.

The process of making Chardust involves breaking down charcoal fragments, crushing and sieving them into a fine powder, milling it, adding binders, and finally compressing the results into small pillow-shaped briquettes.

Chardust Ltd. produces two kinds of briquettes: high-grade and low-grade. The low-grade product has a higher ash content and is thus more difficult to light and has a lower energy output. That said, in the context of space or water heating this is considered preferable, as the lower energy briquettes burn for longer periods of time and don't risk overheating the immediate surrounding environment.

While the high-grade version of the briquette is more practical for common household use, the problem is that it cannot cater for the lower niche of the market that uses charcoal as its sole form of cooking fuel. Briquettes made from recycled materials are inevitably more expensive than the backstreet charcoal available to people in lower-income neighborhoods.

As a result, Chardust is mainly used by commercial enterprises (hotels, restaurants, poultry farms) or, at a retail level, sold in supermarkets and bought by middle-to-high-income customers who will burn it for the occasional barbeque.

Since 2005, Chardust Ltd. has been buying charcoal dust from the informal settlement of Kibera, which is relatively close to their factory in Lang'ata. This was originally done as part of a World Bank-funded project but, more recently, is simply done through trusted agents who collect the refuse fragments and powder and sell them on in bulk to the company.

Unfortunately, with charcoal dust going at around 1000 Kenyan shillings a ton (just over $10), the profit margins for slum dwellers to sell it are extremely low and not really worth their while.

According to Chardust company founder Matthew Owen, a few years ago the company attempted to circumvent the value-adding chain of distribution and set up Chardust kiosks directly in the slums. However, a combination of facts that included customer distrust and low profit margins, compounded by the presence of city officials demanding to see documentation and attempting to extract bribes, resulted in the project being discontinued.

"Charcoal is cheap in Kenya because it is unlicensed," says Owen. "Until the government decides to force people to comply with environmental laws, it will be impossible to make Chardust cheap enough for domestic consumption at the lower end of the market."

Questions for discussion:

  • What kind of cooking fuels do people use in low-income urban areas around the world?
  • What, if any, successful recycled briquette projects have there been that have proved popular amongst the poorer sections of cities?
  • If the government cracks down on illegal charcoal making and selling, it will create a loss of jobs and push the price of charcoal up. In what way could products like Chardust compensate for this loss of income and rise in price?

Comments

It caught my attention when reading this week’s articles the importance that was given to innovation in order to develop more affordable alternatives where electricity is difficult and expensive to provide, like in Lagos, Nairobi and Mumbai; and to my surprise, there are several interesting projects being tested! But I also think that until solutions are developed and scaled up, all of our URB.IM cities need to invest more in educational programs targeted to low income dwellers specifically on how to reduce electricity costs. Such programs could also move forward in introducing a “culture of payment” for consumers instead of going for illegal connections. I just think education is a fundamental step in improving service provision and in promoting good use of urban services; I also consider that low income dwellers need to be better informed on the importance of saving energy and in reducing over-consumption. As I wrote in the Rio article, this city has been recently promoting educative campaigns on several issues related to energy consumption. Although it still needs to scale up such efforts, the city is moving in the right direction by teaching dwellers how to be more “responsible consumers”. Are there any related initiatives elsewhere that we could all learn from?

Como afirma Catalina, el consumo ilegal de energia no es una problematica agena a las ciudades. Al igual que en Rio de Janeiro, el DF representa un gran porcentaje de perdidas economicas por la extraccion de la energia, por lo que el gobierno esta tratando de abrir legalmente las cuentas de luz para los hogares y comercios que obtienen la luz por medio de los diablitos. Si bien es cierto que se busca negociar para que se registre el servicio bajo una tarifa unica, gran parte de la poblacion no puede tener acceso debido a las restricciones economicas de sus hogares. Por un lado es necesario hacer que la provision de este servicio no sea exclusivo del estado con el fin de abrirlo a la competencia, y por el otro lado encontramos el aprovechamiento de nuevas energias alternas para satisfacer las necesidades de las personas sin acceso a la energia, y que ademas puede relizarse sin comprometer los recursos del ambiente. En este sentido, en el DF se encuentra una gran area de oportunidad para que la sinergia de actores, como la sociedad civil y el sector privado, lleven ecotecnias a los hogares sin energia para que puedan desarrollar estrategias innovadoras que promuevan su bienestar.

Catalina, in general, I like the idea of educating consumers on energy-saving, but I wonder if the poor are really the true culprits of over-consumption. Just in my personal observations, the poor seem to be very careful about the resources they consume. As I wrote in my article, many home-based workers in Mumbai actually have electricity, but to save money, they choose to keep lights off during the day and work in the dark. They have few of the electricity-grabbing luxuries that we have (dishwashers, washing machines, ACs, hair dryers, computers, and on and on). In India, at least, the worries over excessive consumption can perhaps be better attributed to a rising middle class that prefers to shop in grocery markets rather than roadside stands, increasing the amount of waste from packaging, or who are buying up cheap cars and forgoing public transport (or walking, as most of the poor do). It seems to me that poverty is already keeping the poor from over-consumption of services. A Green Peace report, "Hiding Behind the Poor" (http://tinyurl.com/bydf2y8), illuminates this idea (see graph on page 8 "Per capita annual CO2 emissions from household energy consumption and transport of different income groups"): "The average CO2 emissions per income group range from 335 kg for the income class below 3,000 rupees per month to an average of 1,494 kg for the income classes above 30,000 rupees per month. The richest consumer classes produce 4.5 times more CO2 than the poorest class, and almost 3 times more than the average Indian (501 kgs)." In other words, the poor have the smallest carbon footprint, but are often disproportionately impacted by the resulting climate change. It makes me wonder who really needs to be educated over-consumption.

Carlin great argument; I couldn’t agree more; the poor should never be “blamed” for the over-consumption of energy in cities, as their consumption is way smaller than other groups. But the fact is that low income populations DO need to get better information on how to prevent over-consumption; not only because they are consumers, but more importantly because their consumption has a direct impact on their budgets. And just to clarify, education shouldn’t be only focused on how to prevent over-consumption at the city level. It should be focused on over-consumption at the household level. That is why it's so important teaching poor families on technologies and practices that they are not fully aware of that can directly reduce their electricity bills; for example the adoption of fluorescent bulbs, as they save more energy than regular bulbs and are starting to be widely available, at least in Rio and other Brazilian cities.

Education in the adequate use of public services is highly important among low income dwellers. In Brazil, and especially in Rio with its expanding neighborhood upgrading programs, an educational component is always “a must”. Many of the beneficiaries of such programs have never paid for services, including electricity, and they need updated information and guidance to assist them in the procedures to pay their bills and the channels to make complaints and requests. These families also need guidance on the existence of public subsidies of water and electricity, in order to better afford them.

Catalina, I would also like to question the idea that there is a need to introduce a “culture of payment” for consumers who make illegal electricity connections. In the Nairobi context at least, I believe it is pretty straightforward: slum-dwellers pay for everything on a piece meal basis and if you go and break down the costs you will in fact find out that they are paying above-average prices for basic commodities like electricity and water.
Until we start seeing items like washing machines, dish washers, blenders, air conditioners and hoovers in slum dwellers' shacks, I don't feel there is a need to start "guiding" the poor on the need to prevent over-consumption.

I also agree with Carlin that there is little you can teach a slum dweller who only has electricity for an hour a day about energy saving, the concept is hard wired into their daily existence! With regards to ecological bulbs this would of course be a great solution but given the fact that they cost a minimum of four times as much as regular bulbs there would have to be some kind of a system to cross-subsidize for the poor as there is no way they can afford the extra cost.

Katy Fentress
URB.IM - Nairobi Community Manager
@whatktdoes

Katy and Carlin, point well taken. Introducing a “culture of payment” can’t be promoted everywhere and without understanding the local context and the specific conditions of low income families in a particular neighborhood or city; and seems that this debate is very context specific.

For various years Brazil has moved forward in expanding coverage of basic services, like water and electricity in low income neighborhoods throughout its cities. It has also been promoting subsidies for the poorest populations to help them afford those services. Although there is much ahead to improve services and reach all those who need them, the context and the institutional conditions enable moving forward in introducing a culture of payment, as well as assisting families in saving electricity for their homes and businesses.

Carlin,
The project you mentioned in your article is currently slowly taking off in Kenya too. Nairobi slum residents have the same constraints you describe Mumbai people being afflicted with and in addition to this they complain of getting respiratory problems because they only use kerosene lamps which cause significant air pollution in small cramped quarters like the mabati (corrugate iron) dwellings they live in.

In Nairobi the project has been spearheaded by a company called liter of light (http://aliteroflight.org/) . In the village of Taita in Kibera, there has been a large drive to fit homes and schools with these simple, unique bottle bulbs and the practice is catching on in other parts of the city too.

As you mentioned, it is still unclear to what extent the installed bottles can withstand the full force of an Indian monsoon or heavy Nairobi storm though. One would imagine the with silicone they could be sealed but that begins to make the whole enterprise just a little more pricey...

Katy Fentress
URB.IM - Nairobi Community Manager
@whatktdoes

I think in terms of working to build a "culture of payment," as Catalina mentions, it does make sense and is necessary. That said, I also think that it would have to be accompanied (and even preceded by) affordable, accessible and reasonable options/alternatives -- for example, individuals need and may be more likely to pay for a electricity that is regular, affordable and meets their needs (to strike a shift against the usage of illegal connections, which has it's own pitfalls, in terms of creating widespread resource shortages due to damaged infrastructure).

I think it's similar with addressing overusage, or perhaps misusage of resources. At times, the resources that they have available may not be the most energy-efficient or environmentally friendly. I think of the wealth of coal-based cooking stoves people use in West Africa (for lack of gas or electricity stoves), that can cause respiratory issues; or even the widespread use of generators in Lagos, that cause noise as well as air pollution. Once the best options are available, then I think governments, NGOs or other behavior change actors are better equipped to work to make households and individuals aware and empowered with this information, to change attitudes and practices.

Katy,
A litter of light is fascinating. I was disappointed to find out they are operating as a non-profit. I think finding the right technology isn't the problem, clearly it's there. The question is how do we deliver technologies like these in a way that properly represents the marketplace. A delivery system that ties the companies success to the success of the residents in places like Kibera. I would have liked to see them work with locals to design small scale manufacturing -outside kibera to avoid the irksome city officials - and boots-on-the ground sales teams to deliver systems to these commuinities. The best advocates are those who's livelihood is directly tied to their ability to get the word out about their product.

An interesting company I came across recently is Simpa Networks (http://simpanetworks.com/). There customers make a small initial down payment for a high-­quality solar PV system and then pre-­pay for the energy service, topping up their systems in small user-­defined increments using a mobile phone. Each payment for energy also adds towards the final purchase price. While this solution is certainly not the silver bullet, it represents a business model innovation rather than a technological one. It delivers a payment system that better matches its target markets needs. The question then is how do they tap into the Chardust delivery system.

Eliot

Thank you Eliot for pointing out Simpa Networks. I looked at their website and was extremely interested by their business model as it appears to succeed exactly where so many projects fail: by delivering affordable and environmentally-friendly energy solutions to the poor.
I would be fascinated to hear if Carlin has heard of any cases in Mumbai slums in which people have successfully adopted the system.

Your point about delivering technologies in a way that properly represents the marketplace goes to the core of the problem: there are so many great technologies out there that in theory provide effective solutions to daily problems that are faced by impoverished families but in practice fail to propose cost-friendly and attractive alternatives to their coal and kerosene-based lifestyles.

I hope to see something similar take off in Nairobi at some point. Now that I am aware of the system I'll definitely keep an eye out for it!

Katy Fentress
URB.IM - Nairobi Community Manager
@whatktdoes

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