Overcoming Energy Poverty: Waste-to-Energy Projects in Developing Economies

However, innovative waste-to-energy projects have emerged as a sustainable solution to this pressing problem, offering multiple benefits for both the environment and the local communities.

The Problem of Energy Poverty

Energy poverty refers to the lack of access to modern energy services, such as electricity and clean cooking facilities. According to the International Energy Agency, approximately 785 million people worldwide lack access to electricity, with a vast majority residing in developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, over 600 million people live without electricity, severely impeding progress across various sectors.

The consequences of energy poverty are far-reaching and affect both individuals and communities. Lack of electricity limits educational opportunities, as students are unable to study after dark. It also hampers economic growth, preventing businesses from operating efficiently. Furthermore, without access to clean cooking facilities, individuals in energy-poor areas rely on traditional biomass fuels, leading to indoor air pollution, respiratory illnesses, and environmental degradation.

Waste-to-Energy Projects: A Sustainable Solution

Waste-to-energy (WTE) projects provide a promising solution to energy poverty in developing economies. These projects convert various types of waste, such as municipal solid waste, agricultural residues, and organic waste, into usable forms of energy, including electricity, heat, and biogas. The benefits of implementing waste-to-energy solutions are numerous:

  • Renewable Energy Generation: Waste-to-energy projects contribute to renewable energy generation, reducing dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels. This helps combat air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change.
  • Waste Mitigation: By converting waste into energy, these projects help mitigate waste management challenges and reduce landfill usage. This promotes a cleaner environment and prevents the release of harmful pollutants into the air, land, and water.
  • Local Job Creation: Waste-to-energy projects create employment opportunities, particularly in rural areas. These projects require skilled and semi-skilled workers, offering local communities a chance for economic development.
  • Improving Energy Access: By harnessing waste as a resource, WTE projects provide reliable and affordable energy access to communities that previously lacked electricity. This empowers individuals and enables them to achieve socioeconomic progress.

Several developing countries have already embraced waste-to-energy projects as part of their sustainable development strategies. For instance:

  • In India, the “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” campaign focuses on converting municipal solid waste into energy, aiming to generate 500 MW of energy from waste by 202
  • In Rwanda, the government has partnered with private companies to establish waste-to-energy plants in Kigali, diversifying the country’s energy sources and improving waste management.
  • In Brazil, a landfill gas-to-energy project in Rio de Janeiro generates electricity for approximately 6,000 homes while reducing methane emissions.

Key Takeaways

Overcoming energy poverty is a crucial step towards sustainable development in developing economies. Waste-to-energy projects offer an innovative and holistic solution by utilizing waste as a valuable resource. Key takeaways from this article include:

  • Energy poverty affects millions of people in developing economies, limiting their access to electricity and clean cooking facilities.
  • Waste-to-energy projects convert waste into usable energy forms, providing renewable energy generation and mitigating waste management challenges.
  • These projects create local job opportunities and contribute to economic development.
  • Implementing waste-to-energy solutions improves energy access and enhances overall quality of life in energy-poor areas.

By embracing waste-to-energy projects, developing economies can address the pressing issue of energy poverty while contributing to sustainable development goals. With their positive environmental impacts and socioeconomic benefits, waste-to-energy initiatives have the potential to transform communities and promote a cleaner, more inclusive future.


  1. International Energy Agency. (2021). World Energy Outlook 2020. Retrieved from https://www.iea.org/reports/world-energy-outlook-2020
  2. Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India. (2021). Swachh Bharat Urban. Retrieved from http://swachhbharaturban.gov.in/ihhl/progresswiseReport202do
  3. Ministry of Infrastructure. (2020). Electricity Access in Rwanda. Retrieved from https://www.mininfra.gov.rw/index.php?id=187
  4. World Bank. (2020). Rio de Janeiro Landfill Gas to Energy Project. Retrieved from https://projects.worldbank.org/en/projects-operations/project-detail/P106389

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