What the Solar Energy Market Growth Means for the World's PoorSolar energy was the fastest-growing source of energy in 2016, surpassing the net growth for coal. Times have changed; new governmental policies and technological developments have propelled the growth of the solar energy market and expansion is expected to continue. Developing countries near the equator are uniquely situated in ideal solar environments. As the market for solar energy grows, developing nations are benefiting from solar farm investments and solar energy power.

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) was invented in 1954, with the aim of converting sunlight into electricity. Solar PV is the most commonly used source of solar energy in today’s market and exists mostly as monocrystalline, polycrystalline or thin-film solar panels. Advances in the solar energy market are using different materials such as cadmium telluride to build less expensive and more efficient PV panels. In the past five years, PV system pricing worldwide has dropped an average of $1.50 in Watts direct current. The drop in cost has contributed to the market’s growth.

In 2016, 1.3 million people around the world were living without electricity. Solar energy is emerging as a way to provide affordable and reliable electricity access to the populations forced to live in the darkness as soon as the sun goes down. At Swamy Vivekananda High School in India, for example, solar panels are used to charge batteries during the day while stored energy is used to power lanterns when students return home.

Solar energy solutions are the key to solving global poverty among populations without access to electricity. The availability of light can save families up to $100 a year and gives children more time for work, thus an opportunity to rise out of poverty.

This year, solar PV additions surpassed the growth of any other energy form. Last year, for the first time ever, developing countries like India, China, and Mexico invested more in renewables than developed countries. This trend towards a more affordable and efficient solar energy system has seen a rise in investments for off-grid solar systems and the emergence of new organizations focused on building energy solutions in developing countries.

Off.Grid:Electric is a startup that supplies customers in Tanzania a solar panel, metered battery storage and electrical accessories installed in their home. In Tanzania, specifically, 84 percent of the country is living without electrical connectivity. Off.Grida:Electric allows its customers to connect to their own electrical grid for about the same price per month as Tanzanians would spend on a night’s worth of Kerosene. Off.Grid:Electric recently received $7 million worth of investments to hopefully expand to countries like Uganda and Kenya.

The world is moving into an era of renewable technology. Costa Rica is on its way to becoming the first developing nation to have 100 percent renewable electricity. Costa Rica’s location supports the collection of sun rays for electricity and their hydro and wind energy sources are growing.

Afghanistan and Albania are also capitalizing on their geographic capabilities to build a renewable energy market. Albania’s government is encouraging renewable energy growth with a law that requires 38 percent renewable energy sources by 2020. The race to renewable energy is promoting the growth of solar energy and motivating countries around the world to focus on growing the solar energy market.

Investors and organizations around the world recognize the connection between electricity and poverty and focus on installing energy solutions in off-grid locations. As more parts of the world gain access to electricity, more individuals are able to contribute to the globally connected economy. In rural areas without electrical wiring, a simple light in the evening could lead to higher efficiency in the morning and provides the potential to start an in-home business. As the market for renewable energy sources grows, so do the initiatives to bring energy to rural communities and reduce poverty.

Eliza Gresh

Photo: Flickr