More than one billion people worldwide, about every seventh person, have minimal or no access to electricity. An absence of energy, often in combination with a lack of clean water and reliable communication services, causes severe problems for communities and families. These challenging conditions lead to a drop in education levels because children cannot study after sunset. Furthermore, working hours are reduced to those available in daylight, and emergency medical care becomes unsafe to provide after dark, a significant safety hazard.
“Energy is vital in life today, but still many people have no grid at all or a broken grid. We want to find smart solutions for them as well as for people that have access but want to reduce their energy consumption to adapt to a more sustainable lifestyle”, says James Futcher, creative leader at IKEA of Sweden.
Little Sun is a global project and social business founded by artist Olafur Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen to bring sustainable, reliable, and affordable light and energy solutions to communities worldwide, especially to those living without regular access to electricity. On the ground, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa, Little Sun distributes solar-powered products and works with local entrepreneurs to create jobs and bring sustainable energy to empower those who need it the most.
“We want to connect the world by sharing the power of the sun in order to promote a sustainable lifestyle. The collaboration with IKEA is a huge opportunity to raise awareness for energy access and the urgent need for global solutions, while at the same time working with world-leading product designers”, says Olafur Eliasson, founder of Little Sun.
Facilitating people’s lives and reducing dependency on unreliable public infrastructure is one of the main ambitions behind this collaboration focusing on solar energy.
“Many of us are so used to power and energy that it is hard to even imagine what would happen if our connection was cut off. Since everyone has access to the sun, we see it as a massive opportunity to use it in our homes to light up spaces and charge our mobile devices, to facilitate life in many other ways and make people more independent”, says James Futcher.
IKEA and Little Sun have been learning from those living outside the electrical grid, through their own choice or not, to understand their experiences and the challenge they face. Gaining a clearer idea about their needs has helped to come up with a range of products which can improve life in and outside of the home. IKEA and Little Sun have been developing solar panels that can be attached and connected to windows, charging docks and lights but can also provide solutions for active outdoor life.
The first products are to be released in 2021 in all IKEA markets.
Designers: Little Sun, Olafur Eliasson
Creative Leader: James Futcher, IKEA
Planned launch date: 2021