How Renewable Energy Can Help Combat Poverty

Reader Contribution by Staff

It’s easy to get excited about the potential of solar and wind power. For one thing, generating electricity from the sun and wind is a great alternative to burning fossil fuels because it does not produce carbon dioxide emissions or other air pollutants. But did you know these renewable technologies can help fight poverty, too?

That’s because solar panels and wind turbines can bring power to parts of the world where people don’t have electricity. In fact, an estimated 1.6 billion people — a quarter of the world’s population — do not have electricity at home, according to the Energy for Development report from REN21 (the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century). Installing small-scale solar panels and wind turbines can be an especially effective way to bring electricity to these areas, because it doesn’t require the enormous investment of, say, building a coal-fired electric plant and transmission lines.

The REN21 report mentioned above was published by the Worldwatch Institute, and it’s full of good information on renewable energy and poverty. You also can find more information on this subject on the Worldwatch Web site. For example, here’s one interesting article about a successful pilot project in rural India. The project brought solar power to 100,000 people who previously did not have reliable electricity. By providing electricity for lighting it reduced local reliance on kerosene, a fuel that was often unavailable or unaffordable — and that can cause serious problems with indoor air pollution.

Do you know of other projects where renewable energy is being used to alleviate poverty? You can share your thoughts by posting them in the comments field below.

Megan E. Phelps is a freelance writer based in Kansas. She enjoys reading and writing about all things related to sustainable living including homesteading skills, green building and renewable energy. You can find her on .