There is new hope that million of poor Indians can access an energy efficient light source powered by the sun, throw away billions of polluting kerosene lanterns – and earn the nation money – while doing so.

This week, the United Nations’ (UN) Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) – aimed at slowing the warming of the planet – notified governments and companies on how to calculated carbon-emission saved by installing solar-powered Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) instead of the ubiquitous, ancient lantern.

This could give India an incentive to replace the lamps that are used in 30% of households, meaning a saving of 50 million tonnes of carbon emission every year. One tonne of emission saved fetches up to $20 (Rs. 930 today) in the international carbon market. “The new methodology once finalized will help in registration with UN for carbon trading,” the CDM executive board said on its website.

A poor Indian household could save up to Rs. 1,000 per annum on kerosene costs, half the cost of a solar powered LED lighting system. In addition, once charged, an LED bulb works for up to 42 hours compared with the 8-10 that conventional solar lanterns do.

“Carbon credits would reduce the cost by just Rs. 50-60. If the prices of LED come down to Rs. 200 – 300 per bulb, the CDM scheme would become attractive.

The UN estimates that its new initiative can change the lives of a quarter of humanity, which still gets light by directly burning fuels, emitting nearly 200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, the equivalence of 60 million cars. “Of – grid electric LED lighting system (charged with photovoltaic systems) have emerged as promising alternatives, offering the potential for garnering significant greenhouse gas savings.