SolarAid is different to many international development charities. We join the fight against global poverty and climate change in a way that has not been done before. From the start, we have aimed to bring together the professionalism of the commercial sector with the values of the charity sector in order to create an organisation that bridges the gap between the two. That's why entrepreneurialism and innovation are at the heart of everything we do. And as we approach 2015, SolarAid hopes to make its mark as a strong emblem of wider progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.
Although SolarAid was officially established in 2006, the thinking behind it goes back much further, to the founding of Solarcentury in 1998 by Dr Jeremy Leggett. Jeremy had worked in the oil industry throughout the 1980s and then became Chief Scientist at Greenpeace in the late 1980s when he became increasingly aware of the threat of climate change and peak oil.
Solarcentury was set up with the vision that business could help find a solution to climate change through solar energy, so its founders wrote into its constitution that the company would donate 5% of its net profit, with no commercial strings attached, in order to set up a charity to help poor communities in developing countries access solar power. Solarcentury made profit in 2006, and the result of which was SolarAid. Since August 2006, SolarAid has grown from strength to strength and gathered support from a wide-range of companies, foundations and individuals and has enjoyed much media interest.
Solarcentury continues to work closely with SolarAid, frequently offering pro bono support, consultancy and very often acting as a main source for volunteers. Solarcentury employees donate their free time to many projects, including our phone charging and raising awareness service at music festivals such as the Big Chill Festival. In 2009 Solarcentury employees used their knowledge of solar technology to assist SolarAid partners Firefly to design and build portable phone charging units. The 'Solar Rollers', as they became known, are an emblem of the practical and affordable nature of SolarAid's work in Africa. In 2010 these systems were upgraded by volunteers and went on to raise thousands of pounds for SolarAid.
In 2009 Solarcentury's support led to both organisations winning the Charity Times Award for best Corporate and Social Responsibility Partnership and the Best Business and Small Charity Award at the National Fundraising Awards. Our work together thrives on a joint vision of a world where clean and affordable renewable energy is available to all.
Starting from a group of volunteers meeting a couple of evenings a month, there are now more than 30 employed staff at SolarAid, as well as more than a hundred volunteers - making us one of the fastest growing NGOs of current times. SolarAid has reached approximately 100,000 people with solar power through our macro and micro programmes - an achievement that we are very proud of.