Renewable Energy in Developing CountriesSome think that the majority of zero-carbon energy generators are being built in European countries such as Switzerland or Norway. But that is quite a stretch from reality. In 2018, the majority of the world’s new renewable energy capacities were built in developing countries. While wealthier developed countries added only 63 gigawatts of zero-carbon of energy, during the same time period developing nations added 114. Despite encountering numerous sizable challenges, developing countries are now leading the way in terms of the world’s clean energy transformation.

Renewable Energy in Developing Countries: Current Undertakings

  • Costa Rica: The most impressive energy transition has likely been experienced by Costa Rica. In May 2019, the small country was able to hit a huge milestone of generating 99.99 percent of its energy from renewable sources including wind, solar, biomass and geothermal. Throughout the past decade, the country has seen a constant rising slope in its alternative energy generation despite adverse conditions caused by changing weather conditions and the El Niño phenomenon. The nation aims to be completely carbon neutral by 2021.
  • China: For the most part, the most popular sector of renewable energy in developing countries has come from the sun. With the cost of solar power decreasing by roughly 80 percent over the past decade, many developing countries are building both centralized and decentralized solar power systems. Some of the most ambitious renewable energy projects in developing countries are currently occurring in China, which ranks first globally for renewable energy having produced 1.4 GWh of electricity in 2019 from alternative sources. The country also owns about a third of the total renewable energy patents worldwide and is currently spending three times the amount the U.S. is in renewable energy investment, setting it up to become even more of a green superpower in the future. A combination of these factors has led to solar power becoming cheaper than grid electricity in China, which has further driven the demand and investment levels in it.
  • Kenya and the Ivory Coast: Most decentralized renewable energy projects in developing countries are currently being built with DIY kits which can easily be purchased from the internet. For instance, Lumos, a Dutch solar company, began selling solar kits in the Ivory Coast in 2017. Within a year, more than  73,000 units have been installed — consisting of a solar panel, power sockets, battery, mobile phone adapter and LED lightbulbs. Metered pay-as-you-use solar devices and generators have also become quite popular with M-KOPA, a start-up launched in 2012 in Kenya, leading the pack. For as little as a dollar per month, families can access solar energy. The company now has more than 600,000 customers across three countries and estimates on its website that it is bringing solar power to 500 new households per day.


The effects of developing countries transitioning and installing renewable energy have been overwhelmingly positive especially for remote communities. Currently, an estimated 1.3 billion people do not have access to grid electricity, forcing them to pay absurd amounts of money for unclean lighting and heat such as kerosene oil and coal stoves. However, micro-hydro systems and solar panels have been able to combat this by being self-sufficient energy off-grid sources. For example, in Kenya, the global leader in solar panels per capita, more and more citizens are choosing to install private solar systems rather than connecting to the country’s highly unreliable electric grid.

Additionally, jobs are often created in lieu of the initiation of zero-carbon energy producers. As an illustration, when Delhi, India built a new waste-to-energy plant in 2017 that burned garbage as fuel, it immediately hired seven waste-pickers and provided job training and employment to roughly 200 women.


Currently, the greatest challenge facing the implementation of renewable energy in developing countries is reliable energy storage. Without good energy storage, communities become dependent on the natural conditions for their electricity and are subject to frequent blackouts.

Another anticipated challenge is meeting the demand of critical metals and minerals, such as nickel, lithium and manganese, to these batteries in a sustainable and ethical manner. As the demand for these materials is expected to grow tenfold by 2050 and large deposits of them are found on African soil, the extracting industry must be regulated in a way so that the economic benefits are enjoyed by the entire locality, and that labor conditions within the supply chains are correctly regulated and addressed.

Future Directions

To combat the lack of reliable energy storage in third world countries, in 2018 the World Bank committed $1 billion to help accelerate investment in both the development and implementation of battery storage. Individual countries have also pledged varying amounts towards the development of alternative energy with China leading the way with an ambitious pledge to spend at least $360 billion on renewables by 2020.

The share of renewable energies in the global energy market is expected to grow up to 20 percent by 2023, and developing countries are expected to play a large role in this growth. The usage of bioenergy, energy generated from biomass fuels, is also expected to decrease as solar and hydropower become more efficient.

Conclusively, the future of renewable energy in developing countries appears quite promising. Although it would be too optimistic to not acknowledge developmental challenges such as efficient energy storage, through ingenious thinking and adventitious ideas, developing countries are likely to continue to be on the forefront of achieving the goal of carbon-neutral global energy consumption.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Flickr

Ending Energy PovertyLarge portions of the developing world do not have access to electricity. Instead, they have to rely on energy sources that are inefficient, toxic and expensive. Financing universal energy access is urgent. Ending energy poverty is therefore in everyone’s best interest.

Here Are Five Reasons to Care About Ending Energy Poverty:

  1. Energy poverty is one of the developing world’s greatest struggles.
    Approximately one billion people around the world live in energy poverty. An additional one billion people have unreliable access to electricity. Of those living without electricity, 84 percent live in rural areas where resources are scarce. Nearly all individuals suffering from energy poverty, which is over 95 percent, live in sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia. In fact, only 14 percent of people living in rural sub-Saharan Africa have access to electricity.
  2. Energy poverty causes serious health problems.
    Much of the developing world lives in energy poverty. Billions of individuals each day are ingesting dangerous amounts of toxic chemicals from their cooking appliances. For instance, biomass-fueled stoves release pollutants in the air that can have serious health consequences. Women and children are the most exposed to these harmful pollutants. If the developed world provided energy access to all, they would be able to lower the premature death toll by 1.8 million people per year.
  3. The burden of energy poverty falls disproportionately on women.
    Currently, many women in the developing world rely on biomass-fueled stoves in order to cook their meals. As a result, these women spend, on average, 1.4 hours each day collecting firewood and then several more hours inefficiently cooking on their biomass stoves. Due to the amount of effort it takes to simply cook a meal, many women do not have the time to go to school or obtain a job to become financially independent. In that sense, energy poverty fosters gender inequality. If the developed world invested in universal energy access so that impoverished women could use efficient and cost-effective cooking appliances, women would have significantly more time and money to invest in their futures.
  4. Renewable energy can end energy poverty.
    The price of renewable energy continues to decrease, making renewable energy an optimal investment from both a financial and sustainable perspective. Currently, much of the developing world relies on kerosene and candles. This is because these energy sources do not require installation costs. However, kerosene and candles are not cost-effective, long-term. In fact, they are quite expensive. If the developed world invested in the installation costs for the developing world, more people have access to electricity. Furthermore, people would pay less on energy than they currently do. Thus, financing renewable energy projects is a worthwhile investment because renewable energy reduces costs in the long-term. As a result, it creates opportunities for economic growth in the future.
  5. Ending energy poverty can lead to job growth.
    Financing renewable energy development would provide a new market in the developing world that would provide many new jobs for workers with undeveloped skills. These jobs would provide not only steady incomes and safe working conditions but also skill-building opportunities. India, for example, is working toward creating 330,000 jobs in the renewable energy market by 2022. India is doing this to provide electricity and jobs to its poor, rural communities while simultaneously combating climate change. By promoting job growth through the renewable energy market, the world can achieve its goal of economic and environmental sustainability. Furthermore, the sustainable economic development of the developing world would promote the global economy, serving everyone.

Looking Ahead

Although the UN has pledged to provide universal energy access by 2030, the current initiatives the UN has in place to promote this goal is insufficient. In order to achieve its goal of ending energy poverty, the UN would have to invest a total of $52 billion per year. The UN has failed to match even half of this goal in a given year. The importance of financing this mission, however, is essential for the long-term benefits of renewable energy projects in the developing world. By investing in universal energy access through global renewable energy development, women’s rights, world health, clean energy and economic development can all be better promoted. All of this can create a more sustainable world.

– Ariana Howard
Photo: Flickr

The World Bank Allocates Funds to Combat World Energy Poverty
Energy poverty continues to be one of the most pressing matters facing our world today. The International Energy Agency estimates that 1.3 billion people still have no access to any kind of energy and another 1 billion have access, but it is unreliable. Luckily, there are organizations all around the world that are mobilizing time and money to attempt to cut these numbers down and provide energy to all. One such organization is the World Bank.

About the World Bank

The World Bank was founded in 1994 in Washington D.C. It is a global initiative that helps fund projects worldwide to end poverty. It is not a bank in the traditional sense, but rather a partnership to help reduce poverty and support development. It is comprised of five organizations:

These institutions are located all around the world and are run as separate entities, but they are all united under one organization. With the knowledge and resources of these five organizations, the World Bank is able to offer help in the form of money, but also in the form of technical know-how, policy advice and research analysis.

World Bank In Action

An estimated 2 billion people were able to gain access to electricity between 1990 and 2008. However, along with those statistics, there remain more than 2.7 billion people lacking access to modern fuels for cooking, leaving them to prepare their meals over open fires, having dangerous repercussions on their health and the environment. In fact, it is believed that these pollutants cause millions of premature deaths each year with most of the deaths occurring before even reaching adulthood.

To prevent issues like these that stem from energy poverty, the World Bank has allocated $1 billion to an initiative involving battery storage in order to “ramp up” the use of renewable energy in countries where energy poverty strikes hardest, with the hope that this money will bring in even more funds to help this cause.

In a press release last month, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim said “For developing countries, this can be a game changer. Battery storage can help countries leapfrog to the next generation of power generation technology, expand energy access, and set the stage for much cleaner, more stable, energy systems.” This project will help mitigate the risk involved in technological advancements surrounding energy and battery initiatives in developing countries and educate those countries on what moves to make in terms of bringing energy to its citizens.

World Bank’s Plans for Fighting Energy Poverty

The Borgen Project was able to conduct an interview with Anita Rozowska, the communications officer for the Energy and Extractives division of the World Bank. During an interview, she gave a synopsis of these plans. Rozowska echoes President Kim, “This is truly a game changer for developing countries” adding that it “will have a positive impact on the climate.” This truly is a large step, not just for developing countries but for the world at large. If we can provide energy to energy-starved countries while also having it be eco-friendly, this is when we can truly say that we are making a difference, and the World Bank hopes to do just that.

Rozowska then explained the financing. “The World Bank will be raising another $1 billion in concessional climate financing, and we expect to mobilize, over the next 5-6 years, a further $3 billion in private investments and public funds to support this.” This is an addition to the initial $1 billion that World Bank was able to raise for its battery storage initiative. That is a grand total of $5 billion that will be raised in order to combat world energy poverty and the impact will be on a global scale.

It is important to note that this is not just a singular project in one or two countries; this initiative will help to bolster battery storage and increase energy access for people in Africa, South Asia and island nations in the Pacific. The World Bank is already responsible for 15 percent of battery storage initiatives in these areas.

And the future is bright. Rozowska concluded by adding, “By 2025, we expect that this new program will have financed 17.5-gigawatt hours of battery storage – more than triple the current installed capacity in all developing countries.” This means that by 2025, these nations will have triple the amount of energy potential for their citizens, which will put a huge dent in the issue of energy poverty. This truly is, a game-changer.

Zachary Farrin

Photo: Flickr

Even though there is air pollution in every country, developing countries with rapidly growing populations are more likely to have the short end of the stick when it comes to air pollution.

Global Air Quality

The World Health Organization released an updated global ambient air quality database stating that populations in low-income cities are the most impacted by poor air quality. The updated database shows that 97 percent of cities in low and middle-income countries do not meet the WHO air quality guidelines. This percentage drops greatly — to 49 percent — when looking at high-income countries.

WHO released a list ranking the particulate pollution in cities all around the world. On this list, 11 of the 12 cities were in India. This ranking doesn’t necessarily say that Kanpur, India has the worst air quality, but rather states that it has a higher risk of poor air quality.

But this data begs the question — why are India and many other developing countries so susceptible to poor air quality?

Developing Countries and Poor Air Quality

Two main issues that plague developing nations are that the government doesn’t have its sights set on cleaner energy, and renewable resources tend to be more expensive than cheap fossil fuels like coal. For example, in India, there are anti-pollution laws, but the government doesn’t enforce these laws well enough. “Outdoor air pollution is pretty much a governance problem,” said Kirk Smith, a professor of global environmental health at the University of California Berkeley.

The difficulty in India comes from scenarios where one major city bans a certain type of pollution source, but those in neighboring cities may not have banned this specific source — the pollution can then blow unimpeded over the perimeter. There needs to be coordination across cities to fix this issue. In India, this can be rather difficult due to the fact that the rural and urban politicians have fairly different constituencies.

Roughly seven million people die each year due to air pollution. Air pollution can cause diseases such as stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and respiratory infections.

More than 90 percent of these deaths occur in low and middle-income countries. Cities and national governments need to take action to reduce the number of deaths caused by air pollution and to improve the overall quality of living. Here are three ways that cities and national governments can reduce air pollution in developing countries.

How To Reduce Air Pollution in Developing Countries

  1. Implement cleaner methods of transportation: Emissions from vehicles are a large driving factor in air pollution. When governments don’t regulate vehicle emissions the amount of pollution in the air will exponentially increase. There are many ways that governments can cut down on vehicle emissions. Offering buses and taxis allows more people in one vehicle instead of more vehicles on the road putting out emissions. Cities can also provide options for walking and cycling to improve air quality.
  2. Invest in energy efficient power generation: Another solution cities and governments can take is to provide energy efficient power. By producing power in an efficient and clean way, not only will the citizens be able to have power, but they will have clean air that will affect them more beneficially in the long run.
  3. Provide universal access to clean and affordable fuels: The majority of energy production in developing countries is produced by coal. This is also one of the most polluting energy sources out there. What makes moving coal out and another energy source in so difficult is that coal is cheap and affordable. Cities and governments need to ensure that the population has access to cheap and reliable energy.

While the government and city officials have much they could do to reduce air pollution in developing countries, there is also plenty that can be done on the individual level. Here are three ways a single person can make an impact on the air around them.

  1. Grow a garden: There are different plants that could be grown that give the air the nutrients it needs to be cleaner. There are also plants that eat harmful particulates in the air. Growing a garden is an easy way to take small steps towards creating cleaner air.
  2. Use public transportation: Taking public transportation is an easy way for someone to get to where they need to be without adding to the pollution around them and therefore cutting down on vehicle emissions. If public transportation isn’t available, cycling or walking are other great ways to help reduce air pollution in developing countries and local communities.
  3. Recycle: It takes more energy and natural resources to make new products for use. By using more energy and resources, the amount of air pollution produced also increases. The amount of energy and natural resources would be reduced by recycling previously used items.

Reducing air pollution would save lives and reduce the risks of many different diseases. Air pollution may seem like a formidable issue to tackle, but it can be both acknowledged and reduced.

Anyone can help reduce a small part of the air pollution around them. WHO released a challenge in May called “marathon a month.” This challenge calls for people to pledge to leave their personal transportation behind and use alternative transportation, like walking or cycling, for the equivalent of a marathon distance for one month.

Wherever someone may be, they can help those in their local community and in neighboring developing countries reduce air pollution and make the Earth a cleaner place.

– Victoria Fowler
Photo: Flickr

cheap clean energy
By 2020, it is anticipated that the price of wind and solar energy will be equal to or even less than the cost of fossil fuels.

This cheap clean energy would have obvious environmental benefits, but it is also significant because it provides poor communities in developing countries, more specifically in Asia and Africa, with the opportunity to connect to the power grid, in some cases for the first time.


Slow but Constant Progress

A large amount of Africa’s population continues to remain without electricity. According to a World Bank article published last year, 500 million people in African countries do not have any electricity, which is down from the 600 million that Reuters reported in 2016.

Of that 600 million, Reuters found 10 percent utilized sustainable means to get their electricity. While the progress has been slow, the continuing decrease in the cost of clean energy means that the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of universal access to electricity by 2030 will be more obtainable.

As cheap clean energy becomes more competitive with fossil fuels, businesses and other countries have invested in developing infrastructure in African countries so that they can utilize sustainable energy.

One recent example of this assistance occurred last August when France gave Kenya $36 million in order to construct 23 mini-grid systems for wind and solar energy. Due to this action, businesses and homes in these poor communities will be able to utilize electricity to spur development in multiple ways as the price of renewable energy continues to fall.


Efforts to Provide Jobs

In 2017, the renewable energy sector provided 9.8 million jobs around the world, with jobs in solar energy being the largest employer, according to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency; this number demonstrated an increase from the previous year. Furthermore, the Director-General of IRENA, Adnan Z. Amin, predicts that by 2030, the renewable energy sector could employ around 24 million people.


More Light, More Time to Study

Having electricity at home gives families the opportunity to use technology they previously would not have had access to. For example, families in Mali could charge their phones at home, and use other devices such as radio and television.

Another positive impact that people may not often consider is that access to electricity makes it easier for people to stay up later, and as a result get more work done. This is particularly beneficial in the case of students, who can have more time to finish their homework using light from electricity.

As described in one article by The World Bank, it was generally reported that teachers in Mali noticed their students improve in classes after they gained access to electricity through solar power.


Business Advantages

Cheap clean energy makes it easier for businesses to stay open longer, and work more efficiently. For example, small restaurants can use electricity to power freezers and refrigerators and therefore remain open longer hours. More specifically, after Mali installed a solar energy plant in one region of the country, women were able to use the electricity to create a processing unit for their local produce.

Overall, the introduction of solar grids and other cheap clean energy is promising for the continuing development of African countries. By far, solar energy continues to be the cheapest form of clean energy. A 2017 report from IRENA found the cost of electricity from solar power fell almost 70 percent between the years 2010 and 2016.

As technology continues to advance and the prices of clean energy continue to fall, electricity can finally reach these poorer communities and make a difference in the lives of the people who inhabit them.

– Jennifer Jones

Photo: Flickr

renewable energy in Ghana
As technological advances increase and non-renewable sources depreciate, more countries have started investing in less conventional forms of renewable energy — including the extraction of wave energy. This is the case for an Israeli-based company, Yam Pro Energy (YPE), that works to increase the amount of renewable energy in Ghana.

There is a large range of wave energy technologies that each rely on different mechanisms to harness energy; three of the methods are as follows:

  1. Oscillating Water Column
  2. Oscillating Bodies
  3. Overtopping

Oscillating Water Columns use a horizontal front-to-back motion that extracts energy using a roll rotation, while the Oscillating Bodies use a side-to-side motion to extract wave energy using a pitch rotation. The last technology is overtopping, the mechanism used by YPE, that uses a vertical up-and-down motion to harness the energy.



The main advantages of these systems are its simplicity, reliability and power, which make each option a promising investment. While Europe is still the main lead market for wave technology, other countries have followed the trend; for instance, Ghana works with Yam Pro Energy to bring hydropower plants to its shorelines.

Yam Pro Energy is a long-time supporter of wave energy and works to provide millions of people with clean, efficient energy and eliminate global dependency on fossil fuels. YPE accomplishes such actions with the erection of their wave-energy-harnessing plants, also known as Sea Wave power plants.

YPE recently created a prototype that harnesses the energy from crashing waves and uses it to produce renewable energy that does not harm the ecosystem; the plant is set to be built on the coastline of Ghana’s capital city, Accra.



This prototype is more efficient than other devices, such as buoys that can easily be destroyed and can sink in rough seas, and are easily accessible. This means that maintenance issues can easily be addressed without sending out scuba divers or boats. These machines do not emit pollution or harm wildlife, and can easily withstand the harsh environment of the sea, making them a valuable investment.

Zeev Peretz, Yam Pro Energy’s CEO, says that wave technology, specifically when using YPE’s Sea Wave plants, is more efficient as it creates up to 65 percent of energy per year compared to other sources that create between 22 and 24 percent.

According to The Solutions Project and Standford University, the top sources of renewable energy in Ghana are as follows:

  1. Commercial and government rooftop solar, which accounts for 23.7 percent
  2. Residential rooftop solar, which accounts for 19.9 percent
  3. Onshore wind turbines, which account for 17.8 percent
  4. Offshore wind turbines, which account for 14.8 percent
  5. Concentrating solar power plants, which account for 11 percent
  6. Hydropower energy, which accounts for 8.4 percent

Of note, Mark Jacobson from The Solutions Project explained that wave technology is the least utilized source of renewable energy in Ghana. By 2050, it is projected that hydropower will contribute to almost 15 percent of Ghana’s renewable energy, as water energy is meant to complement other renewable energy sources rather than be a source of its own.

With its optimistic future of endless possibilities and success, it is only a matter of time before hydropower acts as a major pillar of renewable energy for Ghana.

– Chylene Babb

Photo: Flickr