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2023 Winner Solar Sister

2023 Renewable Transformation Challenge prize awarded to Solar Sister, empowering women to eradicate energy poverty

2023 Winner Solar Sister

Globally, 698 million people live below the extreme poverty line of less than $1.90 USD a day, unable to fulfil basic needs like food, water, and shelter, for themselves or their families. Access to energy is fundamental to alleviating poverty and advancing health and education, particularly for women and children. Inadequate access to energy leaves those affected, typically in rural and remote communities (last-mile communities), dependent on burning solid biomass in inefficient and polluting ways and in a cycle of unproductivity and poverty.

Affordable, reliable, and efficient electricity increases productivity, generates jobs, and enhances living conditions and socioeconomic success.  Despite this, 774 million people globally lack access to energy, with 597 million of those individuals living in Sub-Saharan Africa. Women and children are disproportionately impacted by energy poverty because women can spend up to 10 hours a week collecting fuel for energy use, often also leading to young girls being removed from school for firewood collection and preventing women from participating in other income-generating activities.

Since 2010, Solar Sisteropens in new tab/window has worked to fight energy poverty across this region by recruiting, training, and supporting women entrepreneurs as they create clean energy distribution businesses. Solar Sister Entrepreneurs sell products produced by trusted manufacturers, ranging from a small phone-charging lamp to larger solar home systems and clean cookstoves.

After over a decade of operations, Solar Sister remains the only organisation working at the intersection of women's empowerment, energy poverty and climate change in Africa. Solar Sister’s theory of change is that through developing women entrepreneurship, both the women entrepreneurs and their communities benefit from positive impacts in the areas of energy access, climate justice and gender equity.

Income from selling Solar Sister products allows women to contribute to household earnings and gain confidence, financial independence, and respect from their families, while delivering clean energy solutions to their communities.

Families benefit from better health and economic stability thanks to the use of clean cookstoves and solar lights. Children have reliable, bright lighting to study by at night. Women save time thanks to the use of solar lights after the sun sets. Families who switch to clean cookstoves report significantly reduced time spent collecting wood, money spent on solid fuels, and smoke output, improving the health of women and children.

To date, Solar Sister has recruited, trained and supported more than 9,400 entrepreneurs who have gone on to mitigate more than 1.3M CO2e, providing access to energy to more than 4.3M beneficiaries across Nigeria, Tanzania and Kenya.

With the €20,000 prize from the Renewable Transformation Challenge, Solar Sister intends to escalate operations. Over the next five years, Solar Sister aims to scale their model across Sub-Saharan Africa to:

  • Empower more than 30,000 women to start clean energy businesses and create meaningful impact in their communities.

  • Provide more than 30,000,000 people with access to clean energy solutions.

  • Mitigate more than 3,000,000 metric tonnes of CO2e emissions

"Solar Sister is deeply honored to stand as the recipient of the 2023 Renewable Transformation Challenge from Elsevier and ISES. This accolade pays tribute to the unwavering dedication of our staff and entrepreneurs who, day in and day out, champion gender equity, bolster clean energy access, and drive forward climate action in the most remote communities across sub-Saharan Africa."


Katherine Lucey

Founder & CEO, Solar Sister

Top 10 entries

The following entries to the 2023 Renewable Transformation Challenge were selected as the top 10 (in alphabetical order):

DC Powered Indoor Induction Solar Cooker (Uganda)

This project developed solar cookers and piloted them in households who are currently using them. So far it takes 18-20 minutes to boil a liter of water which is comparable to a conventional electric cooker from cold start. This cooker gives 5-6 hours of cooking with no sunshine. Making this solar cooker affordable as the next step of action will increase access through adoption and use, thereby setting women and children free from unhealthy cooking energy sources.

Decarbonization of post-harvesting operations (Ecuador)

The project was implemented to promote the energy security and independence of subsidies of five collection and processing centers that belong to farmers' cooperatives located in the North Ecuadorian Amazon, namely: KALLARI, APROCEL, APROCCE, PRIMAVERA, and ASOMACHE. Thus, constituting a demonstrative model and proof of concept for scale-up and replication in other LATAM & Caribbean countries.

Empowering Women to Eradicate Energy Poverty (United States of America)

Solar Sister trains and supports women to deliver clean energy directly to homes in rural Africa, providing essential services and training that enable women entrepreneurs to build sustainable businesses in their own communities, giving women the opportunity to earn an income while eradicating energy poverty.  To date, Solar Sister supported more than 9,400 women entrepreneurs who have gone on to mitigate more than 1.3M CO2e, impacting the lives of more than 4.2M beneficiaries.

OneLamp (Uganda)

OneLamp is a solar asset finance company. The project provides digital energy financing for productive use of solar cooling systems to women-led offgrid small dairy farms that have no access to the national grid in Uganda. The credit gap for women-owned SMEs globally is estimated at $287 billion. OneLamp is able to bridge this gap by providing the product as a service model allowing women led off-grid dairy farms to own their solar cooling systems after making after weekly or monthly mobile money payments over 2 years.

Powering up off grid settlements with solar power (United Kingdom/Bangladesh)

The project seeks to invest in women and their families in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh, addressing high levels of maternal and childhood malnutrition and to do this in part by ‘powering up’ Women’s Business Centres with solar power. Women play an essential role in the food system in the CHT yet have limited access and control over resources and decision-making power. The political, socio-cultural, economic, and geographical context of the CHT presents specific development challenges.

SafiSolar -Sustainable Clean Water access (Kenya)

The SafiSolar project by INNO-NEAT Energy Solutions aims to provide safe drinking water to low-income off-grid communities in Kenya and Sub-Saharan Africa. It addresses the lack of access to clean water, which leads to waterborne illnesses and poor health outcomes. SafiSolar is a portable solar-powered water filter that removes contaminants and offers an affordable and sustainable solution for safe drinking water.

Solar-powered farming services for smallholders (India)

Oorja has pioneered an inclusive business model to deliver critical farming services to smallholder farmers on a Pay-Per-Use basis, without any upfront cost. Managed by a diverse and international team, Oorja finances, installs, operates and maintains decentralised solar infrastructure at the farm and offers irrigation, milling and cooling services to help farmers transition away from fossil fuel. Target users are farmers with less than one acre of land and income less than $100 per month, and women farmers.

Solapodz (United Kingdom)

Solapodz are a range of wood based solar powered products; innovatively designed using repurposed lithium laptop batteries, to be manufactured and maintained in developing countries. Intended for people without access to electricity, they will provide lighting and USB device charging. Solapodz will generate a safe light from a renewable source, stimulate the local manufacturing and service industry, help in our fight against climate change by using renewable energy and reducing our dependence on plastics and kerosene. They will help to stimulate a circular economy where products can be maintained and recycled rather than discarded.

Sunstore Powerpan (United Kingdom)

The SunstorePowerpanXLM is a solar/bio-char hybrid combined food processing and electricity generating appliance, designed to be the world's most cost effective and net zero carbon, feeding station. It uses a modular, inverted, PMMA Fresnel lens array, to concentrate up to 1.4kW of insolation onto a flat plate heat pipe with a  selective solar surface . This energy is delivered by latent transfer, into an insulated 30-liter cooking pot. Six solar cycles per day are possible (when used in tandem with a solar pre-heat insulated serving counter) processing 600 x 330gram standard UN food portions.

100% Renewable Energy Justice in Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico/United States of America)

After the hurricanes of 2017 (Irma and Maria), thousands of families – mostly in the rural mountains - were left without power for many months. They struggled to complete the regular tasks of cooking, bathing, and laundry. Grid outages continue to occur frequently. Barrio Eléctrico (BE) is a non-profit energy services provider with a long-term vision of transforming energy systems in parts of the world with unreliable and unaffordable electric service.