Could renewable energy make rural electrification a reality?

Cheap solar, wind or hydroelectricity accessed through mini-grids could light up remote villages. So what's the problem?

In countries where the energy infrastructure is under-developed and few towns are adequately electrified, extending the grid is often not financially viable, and certainly not likely to happen in the short to medium term. And so 1.4 billion people are currently living without electricity. In sub-Saharan Africa, only 8% of the population in rural areas has access to mains electricity but mini-grids localised generation, transmission and distribution of power could change all that.

As the cost of solar energy in rural Africa, parts of India and other countries in Asia has fallen dramatically in recent years, setting up a mini-grid powered by renewable energy has become the cheapest way to provide electricity.

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