by Harry Verhaar

From October 26th to the 29th this year the 4th International Off-Grid Lighting Conference takes place in Dubai. Reflecting on the challenges we face and ambitions we share in this sector it is fascinating to witness  the scientific accomplishments of the past years and decades, making it at the same time hard to believe that a quarter of the world population does not yet have access to modern energy. While a few months ago, a solar-powered spacecraft landed on top of a comet 6.4 billion kilometers away, over 1.3 billion people on Earth are spending half of their lives in darkness after the sun sets at 6pm.

The adverse effects of light poverty are numerous – from decreased labor productivity to the psychological hurdle caused by the fear of the dark – or rather, fear of accidents or crime which prevail during the dark hours. In attempt to overcome all that, some of the energy impoverished resort to kerosene lamps or candles as sources of light. This, however, proves to be a real life threat – 1.5 million deaths per year are a result of fires and respiratory illnesses, caused by the toxic fumes of kerosene lamps, candles and wood fires. Knowing all that, leaves no doubt that it is high time to end light poverty!

Modern technology can be used to not only save the lives of millions, but to also enable them to build a better future for themselves and the generations to follow. Solar LED technology can provide light for just a fraction of the costs incurred by kerosene lamps. Solar-powered LED lamps are also safe and environmentally friendly and allow a leapfrog to a better future.

The advancements in LED technology provide us with the means to end light poverty by 2025 – a mission GOGLA and its partner organizations are actively working towards. The estimated annual market growth of over 50% and the increasing investments in off-grid companies, speak for the rising number of actors who combine efforts to secure a universal energy access.

In 2015, we will have the chance to attract even more partners and show the rest of the world, how crucial the accomplishment of our mission is. The United Nations have proclaimed 2015 the International Year of Light, throughout which a number of occasions will highlight the impact of light on social and economic development. At the end of 2015 the COP 21 in Paris will give another platform to advocate the off-grid energy as the cheapest, zero-carbon route to universal energy access. With all these large-scale international events coming-up, 2015 promises to be a remarkable year for all off-grid energy stakeholders. In that respect, the 4th International Off-Grid Lighting Conference, will be a great opportunity for our growing community to gather and discuss our plans to mainstream off-grid solar energy throughout Africa, Asia and beyond. Let’s act together to end light poverty!