Solar Sister: A women powered clean energy revolution
Solar Sister: A women powered clean energy revolution from
Momentum for Change on Vimeo.
Focus area(s): Mitigation; Adaptation
Location: Communities across Uganda, Rwanda, South
Sudan, example Mityana in Central Uganda
Activity established: October 2009
Versión en español
Solar Sister is an innovative social enterprise with the mission to achieve sustainable,
scalable impact at the nexus of women’s empowerment, energy poverty and climate
It empowers women with economic opportunity and clean energy. It combines the breakthrough
potential of portable solar technology with a women driven direct sales network to bring light,
hope and opportunity to a range of communities without reliable electricity access.
Through a micro-consignment model, Solar Sister entrepreneurs get a 'business in a
bag', a start-up kit of inventory, training and marketing support to bring clean energy
directly to their customer’s doorsteps.
Solar Sister started by training ten women entrepreneurs in Uganda in 2009. To date, the activity has
created micro-businesses for 171 Solar Sister entrepreneurs in Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan,
bringing the benefits of solar power to more than 31,000 Africans. Solar Sister's goal is to make
women an integral part of the clean energy value chain in Africa. Every dollar invested in a Solar
Sister entrepreneur generates over USD 48 in economic benefits in the first year alone, through
earned income for the entrepreneur and the cash savings of her customers. For example, a solar
lantern costing USD 18 brings USD 163 cumulative savings over a five-year period by displacing
kerosene usage. Another USD 45 solar lantern plus mobile phone charger brings USD 225 in cumulative
savings in displaced kerosene usage and mobile charging fees over the same period. At one-tenth the
cost of solar home systems, customers benefit from increased savings, extended working hours, better
indoor air quality and extended study time for children.
Solar Sister is the only organization in the world formed with the exclusive mission to build an
Africa-wide network of women clean energy entrepreneurs. As the primary consumers of household
energy, women are critical for successful adaptation of clean energy solutions. Solar Sister was
founded on the belief that investing in women is a prerequisite for large-scale adoption of clean
energy technologies at a grassroots level. It is this gender inclusive system approach, combined with
a women led enterprise-based model to bring sustainable livelihood opportunities to address energy
poverty, that makes the Solar Sister model unique.
"It is an honor to participate in the Momentum for Change movement on behalf of the
Solar Sister entrepreneurs who are bringing light, hope and opportunity to their communities.
We are committed to adding women's voices to ongoing efforts to address energy poverty and
climate change challenges through Solar Sister's unique gender-inclusive, market-based and
Solar Sister: Katherine Lucey, Founder and CEO
Mitigation / Adaptation
Social and environmental benefits
Potential for scaling-up and replication
Each solar lantern in its 10-year lifetime will replace the use of about 600 litres of
kerosene, thereby mitigating about 1.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2). The sale of solar
products by Solar Sister entrepreneurs so far will help mitigate 9,564 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
At the proposed scaling up, Solar Sister entrepreneurs are projected to mitigate more than 10
million tonnes of CO2 emissions over ten years, while replacing the usage of 660 million liters
of kerosene. The solar lanterns also remove the black soot generated by kerosene, which has
been shown by scientific evidence to contribute to global climate change. At the same time,
solar mobile phone charging solutions replace the use of cheap and non-recyclable batteries.
Solar-powered products also result in improved local air quality and have a positive impact of
Clean energy brings economic and public health benefits, while improving the local environment,
mitigating climate change and propelling Africa to a green future.
Solar Sister entrepreneurs serve as role models to other women. They build successful
businesses, are proud of the income they bring to their families and are able to pay their
children's school fees. They no longer depend on harmful and expensive kerosene for
lighting needs. Not only are these Solar Sister entrepreneurs building sustainable livelihoods
for themselves, they are also mentoring other women in the community, expanding the Solar
Sister network to benefit more women with business opportunities and more customers with world
class clean energy products, building a momentum of change at grassroots level to address
energy poverty and climate change.
Solar Sister has the bold vision of ushering a women-driven clean energy revolution in Africa
through a highly scalable, marketable and sustainable business model. With 590-million off-grid
population, Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the world's biggest markets for portable solar
power solutions. Potential demand for modern lighting products is greater than 50 million
units. Solar solutions for charging mobile phones present a big market opportunity as Africa
continues to top the global mobile phone market growth. By 2015, there will be more than 200
million more African mobile phone owners than grid users and a total of 400 million off-grid
phone owners across Africa. This translates into a huge clean energy market for Solar Sister
products and services.
Solar Sister have laid the foundation for scaling our impact through strong public-private
linkages with technology, implementation and enterprise development partners. At the grassroots
level, Solar Sister partner with organizations with proven track record and linkages with local
women's groups to benefit from their existing infrastructure and deep roots in the
In Tanzania and Kenya, Solar Sister have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the African
Wildlife Foundation (AWF) to integrate Solar Sister's green business opportunity with
AWF's conservation efforts. In Kenya, Solar Sister have joined hands with the Green Belt
Movement (GBM), the organization of the late Dr. Wangari Maathai, the first African woman and
first environmentalist to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Our partnership will complement
GBM's broader efforts to unlock women's potential as "green agents of
change". In Nigeria, Solar Sister are partnering with SOSAI renewable energy company and
with Azsa Microfinance Bank Ltd. Solar Sister leverage investment for maximum impact and
believe that the strength and viability of our work lies in capturing, analyzing, and learning
from the program's ongoing impact.
Images owned by the activity partners, all rights reserved.
Solar Sister, Inc;
The Mother's Union of Uganda;
USAID (US Agency for International Development);
Barefoot Power, Uganda;