LED Lights Are A ‘Transformative Technology’ In The Developing World
When the news broke Tuesday that three scientists whose discoveries made practical household LED lighting possible had won the Nobel Prize in physics, most Americans probably thought of the LED screen in their TV, or perhaps about whether they might finally consider shifting to energy-efficient LED lighting in their homes. (The LED, or light-emitting diode, makes use of treated or coated semiconductors to produce light. Blue LED lighting — the Nobelists’ invention — was the missing ingredient that allowed the creation of LED lamps.)
Less familiar is the illumination revolution LED bulbs have helped set off in the developing world. For a growing proportion of the more than a billion people who live without reliable sources of electricity, LED lights, in tandem with solar panels, have been a godsend.
Nearly 5 percent of Africans without access to electricity, or some 28.5 million people, now use solar-powered LED lights. That’s up from 1 percent five years ago, according to figures released this month by Lighting Africa, a project of the International Finance Corp., the private-sector investment arm of the World Bank. There’s a growing market in South Asia, too.
Worldwide, in the past six months, 2.1 million LED-solar products have been sold to people who are unable to plug in to electrical grids, the IFC says. Sales have been growing at a rate of 150 percent annually for several years — a function of both the demand for lighting and the improved quality of LED lamps.
In the wake of the Nobel nod to LEDs, Goats and Soda talked with Russell Sturm, head of energy access at the International Finance Corp.
Read our interview.
Photo: A woman in Senegal charges her cellphone using a port in her solar-powered LED lantern. (Bruno Déméocq/Courtesy of Lighting Africa)