Bloomberg Philanthropies Makes $5 Million Impact Investment in Little Sun, Creators of Solar-Powered Lamps Delivering Light to Off-Grid Populations in Africa

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Bloomberg Philanthropies Makes $5 Million Impact Investment in Little Sun, Creators of Solar-Powered Lamps Delivering Light to Off-Grid Populations in Africa

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 12:35pm

CAMPAIGN: Bloomberg: Sustainable Finance

CONTENT: Press Release

Posted on Bloomberg Philanthropies

April 22, 2014 /3BL Media/ - Bloomberg Philanthropies today announced a $5 million impact investment in Little Sun, creators of portable, solar-powered lamps designed by co-founders: artist Olafur Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen. The company works with local entrepreneurs to sell its lamps to households where electricity is scarce or unavailable, at prices that are affordable to families currently using costly and toxic kerosene for their lighting. Little Sun operates as a social business, created specifically to address a social problem rather than to maximize profits.

This is Bloomberg Philanthropies first-ever impact investment and will provide a low interest rate loan that will allow Little Sun to grow, providing clean and affordable energy to homes, schools and local business in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Foundation undertook a rigorous due diligence process to evaluate the viability of the Little Sun business model and determined that solar powered lamps can provide enormous environmental and social benefits.

"Today, seven out of ten people lack access to even the most basic electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa. Over the next 20 years, Africa is poised to hold the world's largest un-electrified population," said Felix Hallwachs, Little Sun Managing Director and CEO. "The impact investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies will help us reach our goal of providing clean energy to homes, schools and local businesses, replacing toxic kerosene lamps everywhere we work. We consider access to clean, safe and sustainable energy a fundamental human right."

Currently, households in Africa not connected to the electric grid can spend up to 20% of their total budgets on kerosene, which is the primary source of light for many of these households. Breathing kerosene toxins is also damaging to health – four hours alone is equal to smoking 40 cigarettes. Additionally, global kerosene use has been estimated to emit up to 200 million tons of CO2 annually, which is the equivalent of emissions from approximately 60 large U.S. coal plants, heightening the need to develop sustainable alternatives.

To provide the greatest number of people with access to the benefits of solar-powered light, Little Sun's initial product is priced at the most affordable end of the spectrum of portable solar products. One solar-powered Little Sun light lasts for two to three years before needing a battery replacement, and can save households up to 90% over three years compared to what they would have spent on kerosene. The targeted price point still allows profits to be collected by the local entrepreneurs who sell the lights in their communities.

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About the Little Sun Project
Little Sun is an innovative way to get clean, affordable light to the 1.6 billion people worldwide without access to the electrical grid. The Little Sun project was officially launched in July 2012 at London's Tate Modern and currently has distribution in Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, as well as in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, and the U.S. The Little Sun social business also helps improve off-grid livelihoods by reducing household expenditures on expensive lighting fuels and by supporting off-grid entrepreneurs who can sell the lamps in their communities, generating local profits. Little Sun engages in projects with partners such as art institutions, international agencies, NGOs, and the private sector to raise global awareness of energy access and solar power.

About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies' mission is to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: Public Health, Environment, Education, Government Innovation and the Arts. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg's charitable activities, including his foundation and his personal giving. In 2013, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $452 million.

Contact - Meghan Womack, +212-205-0176, meghan@bloomberg.org

Keywords: Environment | csr | esg | impact investing | philanthropy | sustainability

CAMPAIGN: Bloomberg: Sustainable Finance

CONTENT: Press Release

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