Renewable Energy in Developing Countries

When you think about renewable energy, you think solar panels, wind turbines, and hydro dams. You think about that solar farm on the outskirts of town, and the wind farm that rises into the sky. You think about how great it is that a community can come together and create clean, renewable electricity to help power your homes, rather than relying on fossil fuels. You’re happy that your community can reduce the burden on the environment. But what you likely don’t think about, is how renewable energy might be the only viable option for communities in developing countries. About how developing communities don’t have power to begin with, and this inhibits their ability to educate their children, grow their crops, have running water, and simply to survive.

Renewable energy can be the answer to these barriers in developing countries. Renewable energy sources can produce the power needed for these communities to survive, thrive, and grow.

According to Prof. John A. Mathews, in his article “Developing countries and the renewable energy revolution”1, he states that developing countries utilize renewable energy as “part of their industrialisation process” because of several facts. Renewables are clean, generate employment, enhance energy security, and “respond to the economic imperative facing industrialisation giants like China, India, and others”. He uses China as an example: the nation has grown to become a renewables “superpower”. By 2014, China had installed 378 GW of renewable capacity.1 Prof. Mathews also states that “countries with abundant renewable resources can use renewables technologies as a means of accelerating their industrial development…. [they can] build renewable energy systems that generate clean power, clear the skies, [and] strengthen energy security.”1

In a 2019 article, Enel Green Power revealed that 100 countries were evaluated by the Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), which concluded that developing or emerging countries have more renewable installed capacity than first world countries.2 In addition, the production of renewable energy in these developing countries has surpassed the capacity generated by fossil sources.2 This has resulted from a steady growth in the demand for electricity in developing countries, as well as the implementation of energy policies, and lower technology costs. Renewable energy is a less expensive and more viable option for electricity in developing countries.

Renewable energy is also potentially a reliable power source in refugee settlements, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)3. IRENA states that “on-site renewable energy solutions can cost-effectively supply refugee communities with low-cost, reliable electricity”.3 IRENA’s report examines the energy needs at refugee camps and identifies renewable energy solutions. Solar mini-grids are specifically highlighted, expressing that they can boost the efficiency of humanitarian operations, avoid diesel consumption, and support refugees with immediate, reliable electricity access.

The importance of having reliable electricity in not only developing countries, but also in refugee camps, is profound. We in first world countries may not realize just how much importance electricity holds in our daily lives. Everything we use is plugged in. If suddenly our country went dark, and we had no access to running water, cell phones, internet, etc. – what would we do? Developing countries need a reliable energy source in order to have the same opportunities that we have. These countries must have energy to thrive and grow. Renewable energy is the reliable, low-cost, and most widely available source of electricity.


1Mathews, John A. (2016). Developing countries and the renewable energy revolution. Retrieved from

2Bertaglio, Andrea. (January 16, 2019). Developing countries are the new leaders in renewables. Retrieved from

3International Renewable Energy Agency. (December 18, 2019). New Report Shows Potential of Renewables as a Reliable Power Source in Refugee Settlements. Retrieved from