In sub-Saharan Africa, over 500 million people live without electricity.

For lighting, many of them use kerosene, a fossil fuel that contributes to global warming, emits toxic fumes, and can start dangerous fires.

“So we started looking for a low-cost way to provide electricity for an entire village,” says Jeff Schnurr, CEO of Jaza Energy.

The company figured out a way to meet that goal without conventional power plants and a distribution grid.

In Tanzania, Jaza Energy has built about 75 solar hubs: small buildings with solar panels on top. Two women from the community staff each hub.

The women use the solar power to charge battery packs. Customers rent the packs and use them to power lights, charge cell phones, and for other small electricity needs.

Schnurr says it’s cheaper to rent a battery pack than it is to buy kerosene. So the approach not only helps protect the climate. It can save people money and improve their quality of life.

“The hub operators that we call ‘Jaza Stars’ – the women running the locations – are literally lighting up house by house in their community,” Schnurr says. “When you sit down and hear directly from someone how it’s just a dream come true, it’s pretty transformational.”

Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media.