There is a new buzzword on the street, PicoSolar for electrification of the developing world. While full electrification with renewables will require wiring, lighting and powering small devices such as cell phones is very low hanging fruit. Turns out Dan Golden was right and the NASA engineers wrong you can have all three
A bit of a while ago Eli pointed to an IEA report on the costs of power up Africa which by implication also covered poorer parts and villages of the world. In no to low power situations maintaining fossil fuel electrification has a number of not hidden but not the first thing people in the developed world think much about issues.
The cost of building out a distribution network exceeds that of putting in solar or wind (follow the Eli link). A small amount of electricity would bring infinite improvement to the lives of the global poor. When you do not have electrical lighting 900 lumens (about equivalent to a 60 watt incandescent bulb) is the difference between your kid not being able to study at night and going to university later on. It's the difference between closing shop at dusk and keeping open for a couple of hours into the evening when customers are around. Cell phone networks are a lot easier to put up and protect for communications Protect is important in poor places because a lot of copper and power gets, shall Eli use the word borrowed. Telephone poles and wires are useful for using and selling and keeping the wires humming can be nigh on impossible, let alone the cost of putting them in in the first place. In India a bit over a quarter of all electricity never goes through a meter but disappears. Since electrons, at least according to physicists, are conserved, somebunny is kidnapping them.
Then, of course, for fossil fuel, there is the cost of getting the stuff to where it is being used. Coal is not light, roads into the bush tend to be, well primitive, and trucks, railroads have maintenance of rickety stuff issues. Putting up a large coal burning power plant in a central location does not necessarily help much with respect to providing power to rural areas. Even in urban locations everybunny who can afford it has a kerosene generator for the frequent power failures.
The default option for lighting in the developing world are kerosene lamps. They befoul the room that they are used in, The indoor pollution they generate sickens people, and keeping them lit is expensive, ~$150 per year, when you are trying to survive of two euro/dollars a day. When a quarter or so of your income is going for lighting it is pretty hard to escape poverty
As is typical with fossil fuel solutions, they are a constant drag on both the family and national economy, because countries have to subsidize (above the $150 yr) the cost of fuel to keep it available to the poorest.
It is this constant drag on funds which illuminates the ethical bankruptcy of fossil fuel advocates when they claim the war on coal is the war on the poor. Like the old dope peddler they want to keep the poor hooked. They advocate giving away free telephone poles because they know full well that today's innocent poor will become tomorrow's buyer of coal.
Large power plants are slow to deploy. Supply chains for the fossil fuels have to be established and fed. Building out distribution networks takes time and lots of money.
There is a useful answer, solar powered LED lamps (of course there is a battery involved you dolt), which are displacing kerosine lamps. The cost is OOO $10-$20. One could have a split system, but the least expensive ones are put out during the day to charge and brought in at night to use. While they are currently within the reach of those feeding a kerosene habit, there are also organizations working to bring first world dollars to purchase and provide the lamps. And oh yes, guess who is taking the lead in clearing kerosene lamps out of African homes. Here is a hint, it ain't the Breakthrough Institute, the breakthroughs are here including inexpensive (a friend of Eli taught him never to use cheap when describing elegant and useful things that don't cost a lot) LEDs and solar cells along with improvement in battery technology, and it ain't the Trump Foundation in case anybunny is wondering why Eli is so depressed.