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With Kiva, it's easy to take your fair share of climate action

This article is a guest post from Eleanor B Hildreth, captain of Kiva’s Climate Pilots lending team. 

Net zero. Everyone's promising to get to net zero. That's when the good you do for our climate balances off the bad — that is, your emissions for the year. 

President Biden pledged that the US federal government would achieve net zero by 2050. China promised to do it by 2060. But as an individual you can likely do it right away by supporting eco-friendly loans on Kiva, like this one from Altech.

Low income countries can leap to the latest, greenest technology

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), less than 20% of the population has access to electricity on the grid. Helping people in countries like the DRC move from kerosene straight to solar lamps would save the cost and environmental impact of long transmission wires and large power plants. 

Financing is the challenge

An Altech employee works with a client. Less than 20% of people in the DRC has access to electricity.

Upgrading energy tools is not only good for the environment, it also saves households money in the long run due to the savings on fuel. But the average income in the DRC, for example, is just $700 a year. For the end users, the upfront cost, even if it’s just $100, requires financing.

Enter Altech. The market leader for clean energy in the DRC, Altech’s vision is to eliminate energy poverty in the country by 2030. For nine years, Altech has been selling tiny solar and improved cookstoves, and their pay-as-you-go financing makes their products affordable to off-grid Congolese households.

To date, Altech has saved over $40 million in energy costs for consumers, and helped to avoid 375,000 tons of CO2 emissions. I'm proud of Kiva that Altech's most recent loan for $500,000 is the largest loan Kiva has made for solar.

Tiny solar in Africa helps our climate lots more than solar for my roof

Every $100 invested in getting solar for my roof will reduce my emissions by 835 pounds over thirty years. But tiny solar in Africa helps our climate lots more. It has so much impact because of the black carbon from the kerosene lamps that solar replaces.

Black carbon—the soot in smoke from inefficient fires—is a powerful warming agent and its impact on our globe is significant. Jim Hansen says it is comparable to that of methane. 51% of it comes from household energy use, mostly in low income countries where there is no electricity, and people use kerosene lamps for light and wood or charcoal for cooking. 

Black carbon has from 450 to 1500 times the impact per pound of carbon dioxide according to the best source I've found, Climate and Clean Air Coalition. Taking the average of that range, I estimate that because solar in Africa replaces smoky kerosene lamps, it helps four times more per dollar invested. 

Clean cook stoves are even better for our climate

3 billion folks cook with wood and half of them use inefficient hand made stoves. Folks who get grid access usually continue cooking with their old biomass stove.   

If they upgrade to a $40 factory-made wood or charcoal stove, their fuel needs will be cut in half. Instead of the fuel going up in smoke, twice as much of the heat cooks the food. 

Kiva lending is more impactful than my electric car

Eleanor stands with her EV vehicle.

I love my electric car. Fueling it costs less than $1 to drive 25 miles. Over the life of the car, the fuel saving will surpass the premium I paid for the car.   

But alas, my electric car was a big investment. Per dollar, I accomplish more climate impact by lending to many of Kiva’s eco-friendly loans. My best calculations imply that these loans help our climate per dollar at least as much as my car.  

Please support Kiva eco-friendly loans

Please support Altech. After Altech's loan finishes fundraising, our team, Climate Pilots, will pick another great green loan to be our team loan. On our team list you can find another 15 climate-friendly Kiva loans that we recommend.

About the author

Eleanor Hildreth

Eleanor B Hildreth was a peace activist before she became a climate activist twenty years ago. She is retiring from being a landlady in Houston, Texas. She is a captain of the Kiva lenders team, Climate Pilots. The more she learns about climate tipping points’ ability to cause rapid climate change, the more alarmed she becomes about our possible futures.