RTC 2023 Winner is Solar Sister with project "Empowering Women to Eradicate Energy Poverty"

Elsevier and the International Solar Energy Society ISES are pleased to announce Solar Sisters with their project entry "Empowering Women to Eradicate Energy Poverty" as the winners of the 2023 Renewable Transformation Challenge!

Globally, 698 million people live below the extreme poverty line of less than $1.90 USD a day, unable to fulfil basic needs like food, water, and shelter, for themselves or their families. Access to energy is fundamental to alleviating poverty and advancing health and education, particularly for women and children. Inadequate access to energy leaves those affected, typically in rural and remote communities (last-mile communities), dependent on burning solid biomass in inefficient and polluting ways and in a cycle of unproductivity and poverty.

Affordable, reliable, and efficient electricity increases productivity, generates jobs, and enhances living conditions and socioeconomic success.  Despite this, 774 million people globally lack access to energy, with 597 million of those individuals living in Sub-Saharan Africa. Women and children are disproportionately impacted by energy poverty because women can spend up to 10 hours a week collecting fuel for energy use, often also leading to young girls being removed from school for firewood collection and preventing women from participating in other income-generating activities.

Solar Sister Entrepreneur Akeri Ukpong at a product fair held by entrepreneurs on market day to showcase products to potential customers. Uyo, Akwa Ibom, Nigeria.
Solar Sister Entrepreneur Akeri Ukpong at a product fair held by entrepreneurs on market day to showcase products to potential customers. Uyo, Akwa Ibom, Nigeria.

Since 2010, Solar Sister has worked to fight energy poverty across this region by recruiting, training, and supporting women entrepreneurs as they create clean energy distribution businesses. Solar Sister Entrepreneurs sell products produced by trusted manufacturers, ranging from a small phone-charging lamp to larger solar home systems and clean cookstoves.

After over a decade of operations, Solar Sister remains the only organisation working at the intersection of women's empowerment, energy poverty and climate change in Africa. Solar Sister’s theory of change is that through developing women entrepreneurship, both the women entrepreneurs and their communities benefit from positive impacts in the areas of energy access, climate justice and gender equity.

Income from selling Solar Sister products allows women to contribute to household earnings and gain confidence, financial independence, and respect from their families, while delivering clean energy solutions to their communities.

Families benefit from better health and economic stability thanks to the use of clean cookstoves and solar lights. Children have reliable, bright lighting to study by at night. Women save time thanks to the use of solar lights after the sun sets. Families who switch to clean cookstoves report significantly reduced time spent collecting wood, money spent on solid fuels, and smoke output, improving the health of women and children.

To date, Solar Sister has recruited, trained and supported more than 9,400 entrepreneurs who have gone on to mitigate more than 1.3M CO2e, providing access to energy to more than 4.3M beneficiaries across Nigeria, Tanzania and Kenya.

With the €20,000 prize from the Renewable Transformation Challenge, Solar Sister intends to escalate operations. Over the next five years, Solar Sister aims to scale their model across Sub-Saharan Africa to:

  • Empower more than 30,000 women to start clean energy businesses and create meaningful impact in their communities.
  • Provide more than 30,000,000 people with access to clean energy solutions.
  • Mitigate more than 3,000,000 metric tonnes of CO2e emissions.


"Solar Sister is deeply honored to stand as the recipient of the 2023 Renewable Transformation Challenge from Elsevier and ISES. This accolade pays tribute to the unwavering dedication of our staff and entrepreneurs who, day in and day out, champion gender equity, bolster clean energy access, and drive forward climate action in the most remote communities across sub-Saharan Africa."

- Katherine Lucey, Founder & CEO, Solar Sister


About the Renewable Transformation Challenge

The Renewable Transformation Challenge, launched in 2017, aims to honor and showcase outstanding work that actively supports the transformation to a world powered by renewable energy and has potential to widen access to energy, particularly in developing countries. The challenge was open to individuals and organizations in both not-for-profit and commercial sectors worldwide. Over 83 entries were received which were scored in terms of applicability, impact, sustainability and scalability in two stages: first by the Juror Panel, and then by the Elsevier-ISES Awards Committee who selected the final winner from the ten shortlisted candidates.

A representative from Solar Sister has been invited to present on their project at the Solar World Congress 2023, held 30 October – 04 November in New Delhi, India.

RTC 2023



Note for editors


About the International Solar Energy Society (ISES)
The International Solar Energy Society (ISES), was founded in 1954 and is a non-profit, UN accredited membership organization with members all over the world. ISES serves as a center for information on research and development in solar energy utilization. Through its publications, including its flagship scientific publication Solar Energy journal, and conferences, the Society provides a global forum for the science and advancement of solar energy.


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