Background to Off-Grid Lighting
Lighting is of fundamental value for human beings and greatly influences everyday life. For instance, lighting substantially impacts on security issues, production (lighting can considerably prolong working hours), education (lighting enables studying in the evening) and poverty reduction, to name only a few. However, around 1.6 billion people in sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to power grids (Mills, 2008). Thus, fuel-based (primarily kerosene) lamps are often the only viable lighting source in vast areas within developing countries to this date. After all, kerosene is an affordable energy carrier, and is available even in remote rural areas. However, lighting costs can account for up to 10% of household incomes (Mills,
2008) . In addition, fuel-based lamps are highly inefficient for lighting purposes and therefore burden excessive costs on its users. Moreover, the practice of kerosene lamps implies additional fundamental negative impacts, both ecologically and socially. Fuel-based lighting leads to the emission of roughly 190 million tonnes of CO2 per year. Kerosene lamps also emit several toxic gases, which can cause severe health damages in the population, especially when used inside buildings. Furthermore, kerosene often causes pollution of potable water, especially when used for fishing purposes.
The use of kerosene lamps is extremely widespread in the Lake Victoria region of Kenya. This area is inhabited by 30 million people and is characterized by the use of local fishing vessels, which mainly fish at night. The fishermen use swimming kerosene lamps as lures for fish and are therefore highly dependent on lighting. Approximately 75% of their income accounts for lighting only.