I just invested $25 in a set of solar panels in Tanzania with Edna Mganga, a restauranteur with spotty power who is raising $1,085 to buy the panels for her business. Electricity isn't always available in her neighborhood, and her panels will allow her to ride out outages and save money on her power bill.
If everything goes according to plan, my $25 will be repaid by Edna in a year's time.
If you've heard of Kiva, the micro-lending agency made especially famous with a Bill Clinton endorsement, my investment might sound familiar. Whereas Kiva lets you lend money to developing world entrepreneurs to invest in their businesses (typically by purchasing merchandise, expanding and upgrading their space, or making large equipment purchases), the newly launched Energy In Common site channels your investment specifically toward buying renewable energy systems like solar panels.
One of the cooler things that Energy In Common does is estimate the emissions reduction created by each investment. In my case, Edna's solar panel will reduce emissions by 1 metric tonne of CO2 each year — the equivalent to driving a 20 mpg car 2,275 miles (stats provided by Energy In Common). My $25 investment gives me dibs on about 50 pounds of CO2 out of that total; considering that my $25 will be paid back to me in time, it's a great deal.
Most people won't invest their money in Energy in Common because they're trying to boost the numbers on their offset portfolio, they'll do it because it's a great thing to do. Those of us lucky enough to be raised to take energy for granted owe something to those in the developing world who are working to catch up. A lot of people don't have regular access to energy, and when they do it's often dirty and expensive.
Energy in Common touches on this issue on a page talking about energy poverty — billions of people around the world live in a grim reality in which they don't have easy access to clean, reliable and affordable energy. I flip on a switch and expect it to turn on my lights. I'm able to open my laptop at any time and know that 99.99% of the time, I'll have power to recharge the batteries. Most of the world's population would give a lot to be so lucky.
The developing world should be developing with greener technology. Energy in Common is a great way for the average person to play a direct part in that.
The site is newly launched and has just a handful of loans to choose from, but I don't think that will last long. From the sounds of an interview on the Huffington Post, Energy in Common CEO and co-founder Hugh Whalan is pretty fired up, and I expect the company's portfolio to expand greatly over the coming months and years.
Swing over to Energy in Common right now and sign up to make your own greener investment.
If you'd like to join me in investing in Edna, you can click through to her Energy in Common profile page.
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