As the world looks for ways to combat climate change and reduce dependence on fossil fuels, the importance of renewable energy sources is becoming increasingly apparent. The World Economic Forum notes that renewable energy can help countries mitigate climate change, build resilience to volatile prices, and lower energy costs. This is especially critical now as spiking fossil fuel costs exacerbate poverty and impede economic development in developing countries.
In response to this problem, solar power has emerged as a sustainable and cost-effective solution to address the energy needs of all nations. This article will explore three potential benefits of solar power for developing countries:
Better access to power
In many developing countries, access to electricity is limited, particularly in rural and remote areas. Notably, the United Nations reports that access to electricity remains a problem for over 570 million people worldwide. Without consistent and reliable electricity, essential sectors like healthcare, security, finance, and education can be impacted at the community and national levels. Thus, it is crucial to find efficient and economical solutions to provide power to these communities. Independent solar power systems, such as solar homes and mini-grids, can provide electricity to households and communities that are not connected to mainstream electrical infrastructure. This can improve the quality of life for people living in these areas by providing lighting, and powering appliances and communication devices.
In Rwanda, for example, access to electricity has positively impacted the healthcare system. In the past, many health clinics in the country lacked reliable access to electricity, which made it challenging to store essential medical equipment such as vaccines. The Rwandan government’s significant investments in solar power resulted in access to reliable electricity, which greatly improved the quality of healthcare in the country.
Improved food security
Solar power can find plenty of applications in developing countries replete with agricultural lands. One potential application is through solar harvesting. The podcast “60-Second Science” on Scribd explains how the sun’s power can be harnessed while simultaneously growing crops. To illustrate, it tells the story of a Rockport farm that grows blueberries underneath an array of nearly 11,000 solar panels in a process called agrivoltaics. This allows the blueberries to receive the necessary sunlight for growth while protecting them from harsh weather conditions. At the same time, solar panels generate electricity that can be used to economically power irrigation systems and farm equipment.
The same concept is already being applied in developing countries, such as the Philippines or Thailand, due to the vast agricultural farms that can take advantage of long sunny days. Through agrivoltaics, farmers in these countries can improve crop yields, diversify their agricultural practices, and achieve energy independence, all while increasing their income and improving food security. Furthermore, since the use of such solar tech has been seen to improve production, countries like Thailand have reported reaching solar agri-tech ROI in only two years.
Consistent job creation
Energy specialist Neil Kitching notes that to solve the climate crisis, governments should “subsidize the good.” When governments of developing countries encourage the installation of solar power systems, whether through public or private initiatives, jobs can be created in the areas of construction, electrical work, and engineering. These jobs can be particularly beneficial in areas with limited employment opportunities, as they can provide a steady source of income and stimulate local economies.
India, for instance, has demonstrated how implementing ambitious solar power goals can lead to significant job creation in the solar power sector. To date, it has invested over $14.5 billion in renewable energy to reach its target of 100 GW of solar capacity. This investment has resulted in the employment of more than four million people in the areas of project development, construction, and operations and maintenance. Similarly, developing countries can increase their employment rates through concerted efforts to promote solar power and catalyze national growth.
As the cost of solar technology continues to decrease, it is becoming increasingly accessible and economically viable for developing countries to invest in solar power. The benefits that come with it are undeniable and can have a positive impact on the population, the economy, and the environment.
By J Hawkins for climate-wise.com