With the increasing focus on decarbonizing the world's energy systems, it is easy to forget that approximately a billion people worldwide live without access to electricity. Without it, clean water, transportation, education, and many more aspects of everyday life become inaccessible.
Most people who lack electricity live in rural areas, often in off-grid locations that lack essential infrastructure and technology to provide energy from the grid. The current pandemic has caused lockdowns and social distancing restrictions that have made energy-poor people lives harder than ever before, since it limits their ability to participate in education and livelihood supporting activities.
One main issue with rural electrification is connecting households with regular power grids. However, with solar and wind energy, the possibility of creating stand-alone mini grids has become greener and easier than ever before.
One of the most important parts of rural renewable energy projects is focusing on long-lasting social structures. In Central America, community-based rural electrification projects, when owned, operated, or maintained by a community, have overcome past problems with rural electrification, while creating increasing interest and acceptance of renewables.
The increased access to clean energy better enables local communities to support their livelihoods. Also, it can help improve access to important services such as online education, especially important during pandemic times. However, rural renewable energy projects are often seen as secondary activities compared to large-scale renewable energy projects that can fill industries' energy needs or be sold on the energy market, and therefore be more profitable.
To eliminate energy poverty, and provide essential services to rural communities, renewable rural electrification is essential. Although it might not be as profitable as large-scale renewable energy parks, it will ensure that the most marginalized people, especially during the pandemic, will get a much-needed clean energy source to help support their livelihoods.