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A simple way to alleviate the pain of electricity rationing

LED lamps can be made that work off both very low and normal voltage - so when energy is short, provide low voltage, not total blackouts

Photo of Chris Moller
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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Electricity rationing is widespread in the Developing World. Today, when electricity demand exceeds supply, the grid operator has to black out large parts of the city. If instead, they provided around 20volts, 99% of the energy would still be saved, but dual-voltage LED lamps would stay lit. The cost to the electricity company of doing this is almost zero (just select the voltage adjustment tap on the substation transformer). The LED lamps don't exist (apart from one hand-made prototype), but in volume they should cost less than twice the price of a normal LED lamp. Most people, when told that this lamp will stay on during power cuts, won't hesitate to pay the extra! We need to raise the money to get the volume engineering of the lamps done and a starting quantity manufactured (in China, I suppose), and pilot trials set up in several countries, to see if the idea really delivers on its promise, when social, economic and political factors are taken into account. Pilots can be run at any scale - from a single house, to an isolated solar minigrid in a village (saving 90% of the cost of batteries), to a whole city. The only technical skill required of the consumer is the ability to change a light bulb!

WHO BENEFITS?

Everyone who is suffering from electricity rationing, and cannot afford a generator, can benefit from this. I have sub-Saharan Africa in mind, but any country that is suffering from electricity rationing can benefit.

HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF URBAN SLUMS AND CLIMATE CHANGE?

Unlike solar panels, no space is required for this solution, and no technical expertise. Capital investment by consumers is limited to around USD8 per light bulb - which will last at least 50,000 hours. There is no paperwork. * Plan for the ordinary: This affects everyone in the slum, every day. * Consider the system: This is probably the biggest challenge - it requires new thinking by the electricity company. * Flexibility: Anyone can change a light bulb for themselves. No formal administrative structure required. * Limited resources: This requires little investment by the electricity company (unlike smart meters). Consumers will be able to decide how many special lamps they buy. * Gender equality: Women need light in the home at least as much as men. Light in the evening will aid in doing homework. * Working with the community: This is a direct response to the challenges we have seen with our own eyes, of living in a slum community. Evaluating the community response is an integral part of this initiative.

IN-COUNTRY EXPERIENCE

  • Yes, for two or more years

EXPERTISE

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for at least two years

GEOGRAPHIC FOCUS

  • Yes

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF

I am a Chartered Engineer, a Cambridge graduate with 30+ years industry experience. I am currently a Research Visitor at the Open University in the UK. I am also Treasurer of a Vocational College in Ghana.

Attachments (1)

Lighting up Africa.pptx

...and not one house at a time!

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