Petawawa business Glenergy helping to light up Africa

September 22, 2016

Petawawa business Glenergy helping to light up Africa

Petawawa business Glenergy helping to light up Africa

Petawawa Post - Community News

By Patricia Leboeuf

Posted on Thursday, September 22, 2016

An invested alliance was created between Petawawa’s Glenergy and NewLight Africa, which trades in Africa as Heya! Together, they are providing solar lights as well as clean energy alternatives to Kenyans using a microcredit model to help them finance this purchase.

“Because the people who need these lights are never going to have $30 or $40 all at once,” said Glenergy President Glen MacGillivray.

This method is designed to empower communities in Kenya by loaning out small amounts, and giving a local group, a Chama, the ability to self-police members, create local entrepreneurs and elect a sales representative.

Through this model, the typical user will spend $3 a week until they’ve paid off the $30-$40 solar-powered lamp. 

“That is the same amount they’d be spending on kerosene (lighting),” said MacGillivray.

Once everything is paid off, they can use that money for something else. 

This has had unexpected benefits in many communities.

MacGillivray recalls how one mother was able to afford to send her daughter to school as well as how a student’s illness dissipated once she no longer had to rely on smoky kerosene lighting. 

“So we are not about making money, we are about affecting change and doing what is right,” he said. 

The alliance with NewLight Africa uses representatives from the county level, sub-county level, down to the village/town level. It creates social pressure and a sense of ownership. The entire model has proven successful and has been growing by leaps and bounds. 

Unlike charity, this economic model is also sustainable, said MacGillivray.

“Aid hasn’t worked in Africa,” he said. “Giving people things means they won’t value them. I’ve spent so many trips seeing tractors broken down in the field or a water pump that doesn’t work… Because nobody owned it, nobody cared and nobody fixed it.”

He noticed that when somebody earns something, they take amazingly good care of it, and learn how to make it last longer.

Providing affordable solar lighting to Africa has been a goal for MacGillivray, ever since he learned the true human costs of using kerosene for light. It is not only due to the risks of fire, but also because of the fumes and smoke it emits.

According to the World Health Organization, over 4 million people die from illnesses attributed to household air pollution from cooking with kerosene. Countless others suffer from life-long illnesses.

“There are more deaths from kerosene lighting than there is from malaria,” said MacGillivray.

It is also very costly in the long-term. About $20 billion is spent on purchasing the fuel, and it is refined elsewhere with profits going to “big oil” companies. 

“As a society, we can do better than that,” MacGillivray said.

“How can we ever reach for the stars when we have problems like that here?” he added

His goal is to have five million lights distributed to people in need of solar-power in five years. He knows it is a bit of a tall order, but feels that they will be capable of ramping up production so much more now that he has partners on the ground.

He also isn’t worried about any negative financial repercussions using a microcredit model because “worst comes to worst, there are a whole bunch of people now with lights.

“Everyday no matter what, I know that there are people in Africa that have lights now because of me that didn’t before,” MacGillivray added.