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Australian solar lighting project in Indian slums wins UN award

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An Australian founded clean energy company that is allowing slum-dwellers in India to replace expensive and highly polluting kerosene lamps with cheaper solar energy is to receive an award at the UN climate change talks on Wednesday.

Pollinate Energy is one of two Australian initiatives to get awards under the Lighthouse initiative for the UN’s Momentum for Change program. The other is the Australian-based 1 Million Women initiative, which aims to build a movement to get one million women to take small steps in their everyday lives to cut emissions.

The not-for-profit Pollinate Energy began its operations in the slums of Bangalore, initially with the aim of allowing children to do school work after the sun sets, and to reduce reliance on kerosene lamps, which eats up a large part of incomes with fuel costs and can cause health problems, burns and fires.

The company focuses on training members of the local community to distribute and install solar lighting systems as micro-entrepreneurs, or what the organization calls “Pollinators” – hence the name.

So far, the company has provided solar systems to 10,000 urban poor living in 250 of Bangalore’s slum communities, in turn saving 40,000 litres of kerosene and 100,000 kilograms of carbon emissions.

Co-founder Katerina Kimmorley, who grew the idea out of her Master’s thesis at the London School of Economics, says the idea is growing faster than expected and the program will extend to other cities in 2014.

A total of 17 different businesses in Asia, Africa and latin America will be show-cased, including companies that lease solar farms, make bamboo bikes, recycle waste, and deliver low-smoke stoves.

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