Renewable energy is an easier, quicker and cheaper method than burning coal to help lift people out of poverty through access to power, a new report says.
In the report intended to challenge the mining industry's "spin" about coal and poverty, Oxfam Australia says coal is ill-suited as a power source for most people living without electricity.
More than one billion people around the world don't have power and 84 per cent of those live in rural areas, the Powering Up Against Poverty report says.
It says the cost of extending electricity grids to those rural areas offsets any economic incentive of coal power, making renewable energy a cheaper option.
It's also quicker to install local solar panels than build coal plants.
"There are many examples of how local renewable energy is improving energy access, providing jobs and bringing new prosperity and providing the foundations for development," report author Simon Bradshaw said.
Dr Bradshaw, who is Oxfam Australia's climate change policy adviser, says India's ambitious solar energy commitment is driven as much by making power more accessible as it is by avoiding emissions.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott last year declared coal "good for humanity" while opening a mine in central Queensland.
He believes coal will be the world's main energy source for decades to come.
The Oxfam report, which is critical of the prime minister's stance on coal, says: "(The industry) has found a loyal champion in the Australian government."
In addition to the negative consequences of extreme weather events because of global warming, it says, coal mines kill hundreds of thousands of people as a result of air pollution, and displace poor communities.