Almost one in four people live without power worldwide. Without electricity, these people are at a disadvantage in nearly every aspect of their lives. Having electricity means the ability to study at night and get an education. It means the difference between subsistence farming and back-breaking labor, and having the technology to create large enough crop yields to make a living. It allows people to have and power cell phones, which are being used across the developing world for mobile banking and to access the Internet. In fact, a recent Time article suggests lack of electricity or power is one of the largest barriers to overcoming poverty. According to the article, "[a]s long as those hundreds of millions remain in the dark, they will remain poor," and yet bringing electricity to areas that have none lacks global funding and attention. It's not even part of the Millennium Development Goals.
However cheap and renewable energy sources that don't require a standard power grid could be the first step out of poverty for the people in rural communities who lack electricity. But that doesn't mean governments are making small-scale rural electrification projects in poor countries a priority. Despite the obvious need for electricity, a recent New York Times article explains that government funding for smaller off-the-grid energy solutions is so rare because almost the entire population in need lives outside of urban areas. Since the areas in need of electricity are so vast and so rural, governments fear giving money that cannot be overseen.
And because the world's poorest countries don't have high carbon emissions, they are unable to tap into the green energy initiatives of the United Nations and the Kyoto Protocol. Only $7.5 billion of the $162 billion available for green energy projects went to the poorest countries most in need of electricity, reports the New York Times. The rest was broken up between more developed nations like China, India and Brazil.
Access to electricity is a key stepping stone in overcoming poverty in rural communities. However, it can only be realized if governments take a risk to fund and distribute off-grid solar panels. Without taking the risk of providing access, these communities will continue to live in the dark.