Universal access to clean energy
To design and deliver affordable clean energy solutions and inspire people to take climate action
Little Sun started as a simple idea to create a small, portable, solar lamp for people living without electricity in Ethiopia. We began as a social enterprise, selling solar devices around the world with the aim of raising funds to make solar lights and chargers available in energy-impoverished rural communities in Africa at affordable prices, where they could also provide a clean alternative to toxic and expensive fuel-based lighting.
The organisation was founded in 2012 by the contemporary artist Olafur Eliasson, and Frederik Ottesen, an engineer – an artist and a problem solver who look at the world from different perspectives. This spirit of searching for new and unconventional paradigms, of challenging old belief systems to find new solutions to intractable problems, is baked into our DNA. We believe that every person has the power to change the world with their passion, creativity, and ingenuity, and that everyone has a role to play in changing the world for the better.
Our programs in Africa are just the beginning of what we can accomplish with your help. Together we can:
- Create thriving communities powered by solar energy;
- Reduce climate injustices;
- Transition to a world powered entirely by renewable energy.
What we do
The impact of access to even the smallest amount of electric light has proven transformative. Since 2012, Little Sun has grown into a global project that has changed millions of lives through the distribution of over 1.4 million personal solar devices to students, refugees, teachers and community health workers. This has enabled 139 million additional study hours for children, and saved households $175 million in expenses and helped reduce CO2 emissions by 1 million metric tons. By working with local entrepreneurs, Little Sun has also helped create thousands of local jobs, and generated local profits for rural communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly for women.
But as we listened to our partners, sales agents, and friends in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Senegal, Rwanda and Zambia where we operate, Little Sun quickly realized that energy is more than the provision of light. Energy is critical to almost everything a community needs to improve their quality of life, standard of living, and health. Access to energy makes it possible for people to build a thriving economy. Energy makes it possible to increase agricultural production by mechanizing equipment, and to build adequate health services with refrigeration for medicines, and modern equipment for lab tests. Access to energy allows students to study at night and improve their chances of graduating and getting higher paying jobs.
If communities who currently live in almost total darkness are going to increase their per capita income, modernize their infrastructures, and mechanize manual labor to increase productivity and profits, they need access to affordable energy. And since the world is on the verge of a climate disaster, it makes sense that this energy is clean.
Little Sun has expanded operations to meet the unmet needs of communities in rural Africa where we work. We are now improving farmer efficiency with solar-powered farm equipment, installing cold storage units to reduce food wastage and increase farmer’s incomes, designing solar irrigation systems that allow farmers to produce more crops, and fabricating solar-powered egg incubators to dramatically increase hatching rates for baby chicks.
In response to the COVID crisis, Little Sun is equipping thousands of front-line healthcare workers with solar phone chargers so they can better meet the needs of rural patients. We are also bringing solar systems to rural health facilities in Senegal and Ethiopia to help power diagnostic equipment and vaccine storage and support maternal health.
All of these new programs have the power to transform almost every aspect of the lives of people living in the rural communities in which they are being implemented. But Little Sun is more than just the productive use of electricity. Little Sun stands for a thriving world powered by the sun.
We are committed to telling the story of solar. We are committed to using the power of our voice to move the world towards clean energy. We do this by partnering with artists and creative leaders to inspire global action to overcome climate change and create a world powered by renewables. Our goal is to reach millions of people to join together in bringing light to the world.
We still run our social enterprise business to fund some of the work we do in Africa, but we also formed a non-profit entity to help raise additional funds to bring our vision of a solar powered world to fruition.
Where we work
We work primarily in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Senegal, Rwanda and Zambia, drawing on the expertise of in-country staff. Through close partnerships with local organizations, we also work in Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, and South Africa. We have offices in New York, Berlin, Addis Ababa and Lusaka. Little Sun is registered as a non-profit in the United States as well as in Germany.