The World Bank Group (WBG) has released a report calling for more investment in solar energy as a tool for tackling extreme poverty.

The 31-page report entitled Toward a Sustainable Future for All: Directions for the World Bank Group’s Energy Sector, said that solar and other renewables had key role to play in helping reduce energy poverty, but “critically needed” more investment.

The report’s major goals are to promote awareness of energy access in correlation to poverty, and to provide “financial solutions or guarantees” for the “most feasible energy options for the poor”. More than a billion people are currently without access to electricity and 2.8 billion are without modern cooking facilities, according to the report.

The report acknowledged rapidly declining costs are making solar power competitive, subsequently WBG plans to use solar as a major component in its 2013 energy strategy, which prioritises universal access to modern energy forms.

But it said solar technologies, such as long-term energy storage for small-scale solar, “may be technically proven but require a significant cost reduction before they can be made commercially viable”.

With this in mind, WBG said it would look to support and finance solar and other forms of renewable energy in countries where specific forms of generation make the most sense.

But, with the costs of achieving universal energy access reaching into the hundreds of billions of dollars, the report said the private sector would play a key role in bringing in the necessary investment.

The report said the World Bank could help with this by minimising risks to the private sector such as credit guarantees.

It also said it would work with individual countries to ensure they offer a “clear, predictable regulatory framework” to give encourage greater private sector investment.  

The WBG committed US$8.2 billion to energy finance in 2012. Since 2007, US$12.5 billion has been provided for renewable energy projects.