According to SDG 7, by 2030 the aim is to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”. The problem is that in 2021, only 9 years away, some 940 million people (13% of the global population) are believed not to have access to electricity. The 144,000 or so Wayuu people of Colombia are in just such a position. They are an indigenous community in the northernmost area of South America, where Colombia meets Venezuela. They rely on handicrafts and fishing to sustain themselves and, until recently, the absence of electricity limited their ability to work, to study, to socialise, and to connect to the outside world after sunset. But for them, and eventually others, there is at least some glimmer of “light at the end of the tunnel”.
Colombian renewable energy start-up, E-Dina, has designed and patented a portable lamp, WaterLight, that doubles as a charger for small electrical appliances and works off sea water, salt mixed with freshwater or, in emergencies, urine even.
Just half a litre of saltwater is required to provide light for up to 45 days. Once the salt particles have evaporated, the water from the lamp can be emptied and recycled while the lamp can be refilled with saltwater and will work once more – for up to 5600 hours, around 2-3 years of use. At the end of its life, the lamp is fully recyclable being made with recyclable materials.
The objective of E-Dina, according to its website (https://www.edinaenergy.com), is to “develop research projects that positively impact communities with strict adherence to sustainable development, energy efficiency, and technology transfer”. While the technology they are using is not new E-Dina has developed a way to sustain the chemical reaction over a prolonged period and it is this that they have patented and gives WaterLight its competitive advantage over other, similar products.
To help with product design, branding, and marketing of the WaterLight, E-Dina has partnered with New York marketing agency, Wunderman Thompson who beta tested it with the Wayúu community. The finished product is a waterproof cylindrical lamp made out of local Urupan wood that incorporates the cultural heritage of the community in its design, and has a woven carrier strap hand-made by local craftswomen.
As the global chief creative officer for Wunderman Thompson, Bas Korsten, has observed “WaterLight demonstrates how the holy trinity of technology, creativity, and humanity can produce a genuinely ground-breaking idea – one which holds the potential to transform life for millions of people”. Currently, the lamp, which is more responsive and efficient than a solar power lamp, is only being sold to Government agencies, NGOs, and private organisations in an attempt to expedite a global rollout and benefit the millions of people without access to electricity. Thus E-Dina is not just developing a local solution to a local problem but addressing a global challenge. In so doing it is addressing SDG 7 (Affordable and clean energy), together with SDG 9 (industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure), SDG 10 (Reduced Inequality), SDG 11 (Sustainable cities and consumption), SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and, SDG 17 (Partnerships to achieve the goal). This is reflected in its partnership with Wunderman Thompson but also the fact that its business model is based on the cooperation of all of the private and public sector actors in the energy sector supply chain.
As a Harmonious Enterprise, the start-up is concerned not just to make as much money as possible but “to ensure that the technological advances that are developed in E-Dina are accessible to the greatest number of people worldwide”, thereby benefitting both them and the environment and creating a triple bottom line business.
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There is always a solution – what an invention and they have patented the design which will help protect the Waterlight. I hope that they get sufficient return on their R & D to enable E-Dina go on to new inventions.