NEW YORK (April 22, 2014) – Bloomberg Philanthropies today announced a $5 million impact investment in Little Sun, creators of portable, solar-powered lamps designed by cofounders: artist Olafur Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen. The company works with local entrepreneurs to sell its lamps to households where electricity is scarce or unavailable, at prices that are affordable to families currently using costly and toxic kerosene for their lighting. Little Sun operates as a social business, created specifically to address a social problem rather than to maximize profits.
This is Bloomberg Philanthropies first ever impact investment and will provide a low interest rate loan that will allow Little Sun to grow, providing clean and affordable energy to homes, schools and local business in Sub-Saharan Africa. The foundation undertook a rigorous diligence process to evaluate the viability of the Little Sun business model and determined that solar powered lamps can provide enormous environmental and social benefits.
“Today, seven out of ten people lack access to even the most basic electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa. Over the next 20 years, Africa is poised to hold the world’s largest un-electrified population,” said Felix Hallwachs, Little Sun Managing Director and CEO. “The impact investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies will help us reach our goal of providing clean energy to homes, schools and local businesses, replacing toxic kerosene lamps everywhere we work. We consider access to clean, safe and sustainable energy a fundamental human right.”
Currently, households in Africa not connected to the electric grid can spend up to 20% of their total budgets on kerosene, which is the primary source of light for many of these households. Breathing kerosene toxins is also damaging to health – four hours alone is equal to smoking 40 cigarettes. Additionally, global kerosene use has been estimated to emit up to 200 million tons of CO2 annually, which is the equivalent of emissions from approximately 60 large U.S. coal plants, heightening the need to develop sustainable alternatives.
To provide the greatest number of people with access to the benefits of solar-powered light, Little Sun’s initial product is priced at the most affordable end of the spectrum of portable solar products. One solar-powered Little Sun light lasts for two to three years before needing a battery replacement, and can save households up to 90% over three years compared to what they would have spent on kerosene. The targeted price point still allows profits to be collected by the local entrepreneurs who sell the lights in their communities.
“Too many families are forced to breathe in toxic kerosene fumes because they don’t have access to electricity. Solar-powered lights can improve their health – and at the same time, protect our environment – by keeping pollutants out of the air they breathe,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies. “Little Sun is bringing clean, safe, affordable light to people who don’t have it today.”
While other solar-powered lights are also available, Little Sun is unique in that it is the only light that is also a work of art, inspired by the power of sunlight and energy access.
“I am thrilled by the confidence that Michael Bloomberg and his great team at Bloomberg Philanthropies have shown toward our unique social business model and our aim to bring light to people living off the energy grid. To promote solar power in the shape of a Little Sun is to invest in radical change for the lives of many while, at the same time, caring for the planet we share. Holding hands with the sun is holding hands with the future,” said Little Sun co-founder and artist Olafur Eliasson. “With a Little Sun in your hand, you become a power station – charging your lamp in the sun, you also empower yourself. Access to energy and light allows you to determine the direction of your life.”
The lamp’s exceptional design and engineering has made it popular, not just in areas without electricity but around the world. Little Sun is sold at museum stores and other outlets in regions including the U.S. and Europe, at a higher price, utilizing the profits from these sales to keep off-grid sales prices locally affordable and to kick-start local businesses in off-grid communities. The Little Sun project was launched in 2012 at the Tate Modern in London, where the lamp continues to be available for purchase. They are also available for purchase online and in museums, like the MoMA Design Store in New York City and select retail stores in the U.S. and Europe.
About the Little Sun Project
Little Sun is an innovative way to get clean, affordable light to the 1.6 billion people worldwide without access to the electrical grid. The Little Sun project was officially launched in July 2012 at London’s Tate Modern and currently has distribution in Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, as well as in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, and the U.S. The Little Sun social business also helps improve off-grid livelihoods by reducing household expenditures on expensive lighting fuels and by supporting off-grid entrepreneurs who can sell the lamps in their communities, generating local profits. Little Sun engages in projects with partners such as art institutions, international agencies, NGOs, and the private sector to raise global awareness of energy access and solar power. For more information, click here, littlesun.com or visit us onFacebook, Twitter @LittleSun, or Instagram at littlesunenergy.
Contact – [email protected]
About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies’ mission is to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: Public Health, Environment, Education, Government Innovation and the Arts. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable activities, including his foundation and his personal giving. In 2013, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $452 million. For more information, please visitbloomberg.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter @BloombergDotOrg.
Contact – Meghan Womack, +212-205-0176, [email protected]
Buy a ‘Little Sun’ light for one another
Little Sun is perfect for camping, at the beach, festivals, BBQs, or hiking – and it makes a great gift. Kids love it. Light your garden or balcony, or use it indoors to brighten your home. It’s a fun, accessible introduction to the benefits of solar power and sustainable energy. Featuring two light levels, it’s easy to use: 5 hours of charging in the sun produces 10 hours of soft light or 4 hours of bright light.
Little Sun puts the power of the sun in the palm of your hand – creating safe, convenient, sustainable light you can take with you wherever you go.
Want to support the Little Sun project beyond the price of a lamp? We now offer the option to boost your contribution and decide how much you want to pay. The more you contribute, the more lamps become available in areas of the world without electricity. You ensure Little Sun light gets to people who need it the most.
When you buy a Little Sun, you receive a high-quality solar-powered lamp – but that’s not all. With each purchase you are investing in the delivery of Little Sun light to off-grid areas. Currently Little Suns are being distributed in 7 African countries: Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Senegal, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
Here’s how: the price of each lamp is set higher in areas of the world with electricity than in areas without. We use this on-grid investment to build our distribution system, make more lamps available to off-grid users at locally affordable prices, and make sure Little Sun off-grid sales agents can profit.
Little Sun is a social business that believes in the power of young African entrepreneurs to shape the future of Africa. Because Little Sun is not a charity, your purchase is not tax deductible. For more about the Little Sun social business, click here.
For information about larger contributions, company packages, or bulk orders, please contact us at [email protected], and we’ll be happy to help you.