Solar Energy in Developing Countries – Challenges and Opportunities

Solar energy offers life-changing opportunities to the world’s poorest people – improved agricultural productivity, health outcomes, education opportunities, communications networks and access to clean water. However, it also presents serious obstacles which need pro-poor solutions in order to be overcome.

One such hurdle is high initial investment costs, making renewable technologies unattainable in developing countries – particularly photovoltaic (PV) technology.


Solar energy is an economical alternative to other technologies, making it a prime choice for many countries in the developing world. It has the potential to enhance lives – particularly those living in rural areas – by providing access to clean energy sources.

Although scaling solar in developing countries presents challenges, this technology remains a viable and environmentally friendly solution to combat electricity poverty and climate change. Utilizing renewable energy sources for power production can benefit local economies by creating jobs with local talent, as well as utilities by decreasing non-paying customers to reduce their carbon footprints.

One of the primary obstacles to purchasing solar products is the upfront investment required. To make solar more accessible, microfinance providers often offer on-bill financing or other ways of spreading out costs over time. This makes them more accessible and allows people to budget accordingly.

Solar technology has numerous applications in developing countries, such as lighting, communications and refrigeration. Additionally, it reduces the need for kerosene which emits toxic pollutants that are hazardous to health.


Solar energy holds the potential to help developing countries reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and create jobs, protect the environment and guarantee a sustainable future.

Solar technology is on the rise worldwide, particularly in developing countries like Asia and Africa where microfinance schemes or government and donor support has opened up access to clean energy sources. These technologies can help alleviate rural poverty by providing light, electricity, water pumping and other essential services in remote communities.

According to the World Bank, international projects in developing countries could have prevented one gigaton of climate pollution between 2005 and 2016 (International Renewable Energy Agency, 1 Gigaton Coalition 2017).

Despite this remarkable progress, many challenges still exist. The primary one is lack of funding for upfront clean energy investments – especially among small and medium sized companies who must construct new infrastructure.

Environmentally Friendly

Solar power is an attractive option for developing countries due to its environmental friendliness and sustainability. Unlike fossil fuels that emit emissions such as methane, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide, solar energy has no detrimental effect on the environment.

Furthermore, this fuel can be utilized in various locations and its output efficiency has been increasing steadily. This indicates that bioethanol could potentially serve as a cost-effective substitute to fossil fuels.

Many third world countries struggle with the lack of access to clean, renewable energy sources. Without power, people cannot turn on the lights, cook or purify water.

Switching from kerosene lamps to solar-powered lighting can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and black carbon, as well as indoor air pollution that contributes to asthma and other respiratory illnesses in developing countries. Furthermore, switching can save a family up to 20% of their income – potentially providing lifesaving benefits.

Energy Independence

Since the industrial revolution, energy technology has revolutionized lives for billions of people around the world. Unfortunately, there is now mounting evidence that this steady rise in global energy consumption is unsustainable and may have serious environmental repercussions.

Therefore, developing countries must accelerate historic trends towards de-carbonization and fuel diversification to help combat climate change. Furthermore, the surge in energy demand, particularly for electricity, presents unique difficulties to many poorer countries.

In such circumstances, near-term energy supply options are increasingly turning towards low-carbon, renewable technologies. This trend is especially prevalent in rural areas that lack access to traditional coal-fired steam-electric power plants.