Lighting a billion lives: enabling access to clean energy


The link between energy and climate change is significant, especially since the energy sector accounts for at least two-thirds of the global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. While clean energy is a key component of the climate mitigation strategy, it also contributes immensely towards community welfare by offering significant benefits in the areas of education, health, livelihoods, productivity, better quality of life and reduction in poverty. Universal access to affordable and reliable clean energy is, therefore, fundamental not only for the larger effort towards climate mitigation, but also to realize the full ambition of several other primary goals.


The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) launched Lighting a Billion Lives (LaBL) in 2008 as a global initiative to facilitate access to clean energy solutions for energy poor communities across the world. The idea was essentially to displace the use of non-renewable, inefficient and harmful lighting methods (kerosene lamps / candles) with cleaner, affordable and more reliable alternatives - not only for improved indoor environments and health benefits, but also to generate opportunities for better productivity and other livelihood options. The programme concentrates on rural and remote end user communities that are either completely un-electrified, or are partially electrified, but receive very poor quality, intermittent or no supply from the central grid.

Technology innovation and evolution is central to the energy provisioning process at Lighting a Billion Lives. The programme focuses on the provision of clean technology solutions that are relevant and customized to end user preferences, their usage behaviour and affordability, so as to address both basic and productive energy needs. These range from solar charging stations with LED lanterns for users who are not able to afford even kerosene lamps or candles, to modular stand-alone home lighting systems, improved cook stoves, integrated domestic energy systems and solar micro grids. End users avail clean energy services through a rent based payment model ora purchase model, based on the nature of technology they choose.

The initiative also focuses on developing 'gender inclusivity' by training and encouraging women to become active participants in the energy provisioning process as entrepreneurs, service providers and promotion agents. So far, nearly 3,000 village level entrepreneurs have been trained and set up under the programme, of which more than 800 are women. The programme has also facilitated the establishment of more than 250 energy enterprises that operate at the cluster level and serve multiple villages in a region.

Lighting a Billion Lives has reached more than 4.5 million people worldwide since 2008. The programme is a collaborative effort and owes its success to the support received from over 120 public and private corporations, 100+ individual donors, 26 international funding agencies, 47 government and public sector undertakings, and 215 other sponsors and over a 100 grass root partners.

Going forward, the programme envisions a steady growth in on-ground implementations, keeping a special focus on energy-starved regions in India, Southeast Asia, and Africa. LaBL is committed to facilitating clean energy solutions for 10 million lives by 2018.