Growth in solar power is bringing power to millions in remote communities

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New data from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has detailed the vital importance renewable energy is now playing to remote communities.

Solar power, hydro and biogas are providing an estimated 146 million people with access to energy, according to the agency’s latest estimates.

These communities are often in rural locations where there is no electricity or gas connections, and households are forced to use expensive, polluting substitutes, such as kerosene.

Analysts compiled data from market surveys, the OECD, non-profit organisations and national power plant databases.

Small solar devices and heating systems are growing at a rapid rate, making up the vast majority of new off-grid energy. This growth has been led by falling costs and greater availability as NGOs and business see new opportunities.

Asia and Africa are the main beneficiaries of the new market, which IRENA reports has exploded in the past six years. In 2011, only 20 million people worldwide were using off-grid renewables. These technologies are often used to provide essential lighting in homes and to power devices, such as mobile phones.

The African Development Bank estimates that 640 million people across the continent lack access to energy. The institution is working on its own Desert Power Initiative to utilise solar technology to connect at least 30 million people by 2020.

In a separate piece of work, IRENA reported last week that renewable energy is now employing over 10 million around the world, an increase of 5 percent in one year. Asian countries, such as India and China, are responsible for a large part of this growth.

“Renewable energy has become a pillar of low-carbon economic growth for governments all over the world, a fact reflected by the growing number of jobs created in the sector.” said Adnan Z. Amin, Director-General of IRENA.

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