99FM – Your Inspiration Station

Young Namibians Caring for the Needs of the Youth

“I studied renewable energy systems and had the chance to spend 5 days at the NaDEET centre. This made me realize about the potential of solar energy in Namibia.”

Providing solar lights to students living in informal settlements, one young start-up is proving that making a difference is possible with dedication and commitment. GreenVille Solutions works together with schools in impoverished areas to identify students who do not have access to electricity at home. Once identification is made, they tirelessly raise sponsorship to be able to provide these students with solar powered lights free of charge, making it easier for students to study at night in a safe non paraffin powered environment. 99FM’s MYD Earth sat down with Sylver Kibelolaud, one of the founders of this program to find out more about this exciting initiative.

99FM’s MYD Earth asked :

Tell us about your organization?

“GreenVille Solutions is a social enterprise that provides the award-winning Sun King solar lights and phone chargers (5-year lifespan and 2-year warranty) from Greenlight Planet and creates awareness on solar energy and the risk of using paraffin and candles as means of lighting. Our motto is to improve lives one solar light at a time.” Sylver goes on to explain that “We provide the solar lights and phone chargers by directly selling them to customers, by using a network of independent sales agents and through our Edu-Light initiative in which we raise sponsorship to provide our solar study lights for free to learners who do not have electricity at home so they have a chance to study as long as they want in a safer, brighter and healthier environment, enabling their families to save on energy. Thanks to our solar lights quality and multi-functionality format, we also target outdoor adventurers, as they can be used as a camping tool.”

What made you want to get involved in renewable energy?

“I studied renewable energy systems as part of my Bachelor degree at the Namibia University of Science & Technology (former Polytechnic of Namibia) and had the chance to spend 5 days at the NaDEET centre. This made me realize about the potential of solar energy in Namibia and Africa but also the importance of sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint. My partners also have an electrical engineering background.”

“Namibia has about 62% of households without direct access to electricity. Of those, over 30% use candles for lighting, 14% use wood and 10% use paraffin/kerosene (2011 Census). Many of the homes they stay in have poor ventilation and fuel-based lighting poses serious health hazards such as respiratory problems due to black carbon emissions and eye problems due to the dim light, limits productivity at night and increases the risk of burns and fire.”

“We saw a need of tackling energy poverty while providing clean energy and breaking the perception that solar energy is either too expensive or of low quality.”

What would you like to achieve with your company?

“Our ultimate mission is to eradicate the use of paraffin and candles as means of lighting in Namibia. For each solar lamp that replaces a paraffin lamp or candles:
• Families save money
• Indoor pollution is reduced
• Children can study as much as they want at night
• Small businesses can still operate when darkness falls
• The risk of fire and burns is reduced”

“We also want to create a sustainable chain of distribution and partner with the Ministry of Education so our reading solar light is included in the learners’ school package.”

What inspires you to continue with your initiative?

“The feedback is what inspires us to continue. When people call you to tell you how impressed they are with your product or that they have stopped using candles/paraffin and become more productive at night… It really helps you to push through when things get through because you know you are making an impact. And even if the start-up is 4-month old, you know that with adequate planning and governance, financial sustainability will come.”

What has been the most interesting take home or learning from the International Renewable Energy Symposium that just took place in Windhoek?

“A lot was learned at the International Renewable Energy Symposium, from what Namibia has been doing in terms of renewable energy to other countries good case practices. But my most interesting take home was the fact that access to modern and clean energy should be a human right and Namibia has the potential to be a solar power house for the region.”

“Namibia, which is being impoverished by energy dependency, has the potential to produce enough energy to be independent but also export it to neighbouring countries; this would create a huge employment impact and reduce poverty in the country. The main obstacle is the inertia from established governing bodies as they are reluctant to change.”

What do you think would happen to Namibia if we neglect to focus on renewable energy?

“With Namibia importing over 60% of its electricity from neighbouring countries, and those neighbouring countries are experiencing energy crisis too, it is just a matter of time before they pull the plug or that electricity cost drastically increase affecting the Namibian economy and the quality of life. At the conference, one of the speakers showed that the Kudu gas plant is not feasible to be operating in the next 4-6 years and with the energy crisis looming in Namibia, renewable energy (solar and wind) is the only option.”

What would you say to Namibians to encourage them to abandon electric energy?

“Not everyone can afford going off-grid, as the investment capital is quite high and it should make financial sense in the long term. But it is possible for Renewable Energy to take over and traditional energy to just become a compliment by taking advantage of the solar energy and wind power that Namibia is blessed with.”

“What should be encouraged are things like feed-in-tariff where individuals can feed their excess electricity into the main grid and be rewarded for it; something ERONGORED and CENORED are already doing. This enables the electricity providers to deal with the demand and leads to the money staying in Namibia.”
You can get in touch with Sylver Kibelolaud and his team and GreenVille solutions through their website here : GreenVille Solutions