The St Andrews Prize for the Environment

University of St Andrews


2010 Finalist

Nuru Light

Nuru Light

Providing affordable lighting where it is needed most

Lack of reliable energy and lighting affects over two billion people in the developing world and remains a primary obstacle to improving health, increasing literacy and education, and ultimately, reducing poverty and hunger. Meanwhile, the equivalent of 260 million tonnes of CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere yearly from burning kerosene and firewood, which millions of people around the world rely on for lighting.

Nuru Light’s solution is the modular lighting system ‘NURU’ (meaning ‘light’ in Kiswahili), which is a grid-independent, affordable, clean and safe system that offers lighting anytime, anywhere.

For the first time, customers are not forced to buy an expensive charging system – solar or otherwise. Instead, they only buy the light and pay just $0.30 to local entrepreneurs for each charge, which gives up to 40 hours of light (10 days of use) – the result is a 95% saving over kerosene. These lights are the world’s most affordable, at a third of the cost of the cheapest available solar lantern, making them the first off-grid truly affordable light for the poor.

With seed-funding from the World Bank Lighting Africa initiative, Nuru Light co-developed and field-tested the Nuru lighting system with villagers and local partners in Rwanda, including Urwego Opportunity Bank, Rwanda’s premiere micro finance institution, and the Millennium Villages Project.

Nuru’s LED-based lights can be recharged by a solar panel or AC charger, but the primary recharging source is human power, using the world's first commercially available, locally-assembled, pedal generator: the Nuru POWERCycle™. Gentle pedalling for 20 minutes using feet or hands, bicycle-style, can fully recharge up to five Nuru lights – each one lasting up to 40 hours. The lights give up to two weeks of bright light on a full charge, allowing children to study, home-based businesses to operate and households to function after dark.

The project has been a runaway success, making a significant, immediate and long-lasting environmental impact. This year in Rwanda alone, Nuru is adding 35 entrepreneurs every month, meaning 60,000 households will switch from kerosene to Nuru light in 2010.

‘We would be very proud to win this award and it would help us in our mission to replace the use of kerosene as the one and only source of lighting in hundreds of millions of rural households,’ says Sameer Hajee, founder and CEO of Nuru Light.

Nuru Light plans to use the St Andrews funding to scale-up in Rwanda and to replicate their work in Burundi, Kenya, Uganda and India.

Nuru Light is a for-profit social enterprise with the dual mission to replace kerosene lamps in developing countries with its own portable, modular lighting system and to provide an off-grid electricity platform for the two billion people in the world without access to the grid.

Nuru Light was founded in 2008 and is currently operating in Rwanda, Kenya and India. By the end of 2010, they plan to be in most countries of the East Africa region, including Burundi and Uganda. Combined, their current countries of operation are home to over 650 million people without electricity.

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