Solar Helps Some Of The World’s Poorest Households Save $734,000 In 12 Months

Pollinate Group - solar power for the poor

Financial Year 2019-20 was a big year in SolarQuotes’ support for the NGO Pollinate Group, which supports low-income households in India by helping them replace expensive kerosene lighting with solar powered alternatives. By sending $1 to Pollinate Group for each quote request on this site, we’ve been able to send $64,655 their way in 12 months.

And, as Director of Philanthropy Biheng Zhang told us,

“SolarQuotes is really helping us distribute a lot of life-improving goods – for our customers it saves them money they would otherwise spend on kerosene, which is really expensive.”


“There’s a double impact not only for the customers, who have access to clean energy, but the women entrepreneurs.” 

Before the COVID-19 crisis, Zhang told us they were seeing growing numbers of women taking part in the program, and in turn, their skills and experience were also growing.

Sales have fallen because of COVID-19, but the organisation still managed to get nearly 7,500 units into their target communities between 1 July 2019 and 30 June 2020 – an aggregate saving of just over 42,000 tonnes of CO2, and an Australian-dollar saving of $98 a year for families that no longer have to buy kerosene.

Pollinate Group calculates that so far, the aggregate savings for all customers last year was nearly $734,000.

COVID-19’s Impact

The COVID-19 crisis has made philanthropy far more important to Pollinate than ever. As Zhang told us earlier this year, shutdowns and distancing put the organisation’s business model in abeyance in India and Nepal. 

Their communities still need help. COVID-19 has not only hit their women entrepreneurs, but since Pollinate can’t distribute the solar lamps it’s also deprived their communities of their usual meagre incomes in jobs such as construction and domestic labour, because both of these became impossible in the crisis.

COVID-19 has been a big part of the last 12 months, Biheng told us.

“COVID really impacted our communities and our consumers terribly,” she said.


“They’re some of the poorest people in India, and were the first to feel not just the threat of the pandemic, but the loss of income and the loss of essentials.”

Biheng said Pollinate has had to provide other kinds of support – for example, helping communities whose members live on less than $1.90 per day access food and essentials.

“The way SolarQuotes mobilised their community of customers and suppliers helped us continue this work with the vulnerable communities. I was updating our teams in India and Nepal regularly, and knowing that they were behind us was a huge motivation for all of us.”

Groups like Pollinate also helped communities navigate the support packages offered by the Indian government.

Things remain challenging on the ground in both countries, in spite of the lockdown lifting.

India in particular has a still-rising caseload. Biheng said the Indian government is now working to a localised lockdown strategy, and there are anecdotes of rising demand for product in some places.

Pollinate’s challenge, where COVID-19 is still circulating but where the economy is beginning to re-open, is to work out how to deliver its products in a low-touch economy.

“How do we avoid daily contact? How do we get more cashless, for the next twelve months or maybe longer?” Biheng said.


“There is still an urgent need for clean and affordable energy in our communities. But we have to meet the demand safely.”

Pollinate Group is very grateful for the support it’s received from its philanthropic community:

“We will rely on them quite heavily for the rest of this year, but we’re optimistic that we’ll be able to continue our presence in those communities.”

About Richard Chirgwin

Joining the SolarQuotes blog team in 2019, Richard is a journalist with more than 30 years of experience covering a wide range of technology topics, including electronics, telecommunications, computing, science and solar. When not writing for us, he runs a solar-powered off-grid eco-resort in NSW’s blue mountains. Read Richard's full bio.


  1. Yes Minister says

    It is fascinating to hear that solar / battery technology is cost-effective in a developing country when we are assured by the COALition that solar / battery technology doesn’t make sense in Australia. Presumably, that means Indians are somewhat smarter than Australian sheeple.

  2. Lawrence Coomber says

    Excellent work by Solarquotes in India. Well done.

    Lawrence Coomber

  3. Liz Harris says

    This story is heart-warming, and my deepest congrats that your business is supporting this program, which wins on so many fronts, humanitarian and environmental and economic. I donate to a similar program in East Timor run by Renew. Thank you.

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