Here’s a good news story – always needed in the first month of the year – and one which proves that innovation doesn’t always involve huge investment and cutting-edge technology.

Many people in the Philippines are unable to afford electricity, or at least the luxury of using it during the daytime – something most people in developed countries take for granted.

The rather surprising solution to this problem seems to be to stick a discarded plastic bottle through your roof and watch the light flow in. Well, it involves a bit more than that, but not a lot. The bleached water harnesses sunlight and brings it into people’s homes – 55 Watts in fact, all at a cost of $1 and 5 minutes construction time. Nuclear power it ain’t.

The project is run by the NGO My Shelter Foundation, run by local social entrepreneur Ilac Diaz. He says:

“The challenge is how the developing world can come up with its own model to limit emissions of carbon. We can’t afford to buy imported, patented or manufactured solutions from the developed world and can’t afford to wait until they become affordable.”

It’s often said that there are no new ideas under the sun – and in this case it makes an even more apt analogy. The idea of using plastic bottles for light was originally conceived in Brazil by a fellow called Alfredo Moser in 2002 – but the Philippines spin on the idea is to ‘lock’ the bottle into the typical metal sheet roofs to ensure no slippage. To maximise the benefits of new ideas, it’s good to share and build on what’s come before.