Wide-Ranging Global Initiatives for Developing Countries Sought

Article excerpt

Wide-ranging global efforts to identify and expand sources of power to raise the standard of living in developing countries have been recommended by the UN Committee on New and Renewable Sources of Energy and on Energy for Development.

The 24-member expert body, which met in a special session (6-17 February, New York). noted that adequate energy inputs were required in rural areas to heighten productivity of human labour and generate more income. On the eve of the twenty-first century, 2.5 billion people still have little or no access to commercial energy supplies and electricity. To that end. rural energy policies and technologies should promote "a mix of cost-effective options" to make energy consumption more efficient and to better use fossil and renewable sources of energy. the Committee stated.

To supplement national plans of action, the Committee recommended a massive effort to bring electric power to the people in rural and isolated areas" through worldwide programmes that should be in place by the year 2000. One such initiative should be based on "successes already achieved in renewable energy technologies, such as photovoltaic, wind and mini-hydro", involving the support of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility.

A second global effort, to be undertaken by the World Meteorological Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, the UN Environment Programme and UNDP, would launch detailed mapping of the potential of renewable energy sources focused on solar, wind and hydropower, as well as land resources for biomass energy.

`Centres of excellence'

The Committee also recommended that the UN consider establishing, with the help of donor countries, a network of "centres of excellence" for environmentally sound energy technologies. Those centres would focus on energy and improving material efficiency, as well as on developing and demonstrating renewable energy sources. To accomplish this, existing national centres might be enhanced or new centres of excellence created. aimed at achieving a regional role for each of them.

During the session, Committee experts discussed papers they had prepared on various aspects of energy for rural development, including local applications in their countries or regions. in addition, a number of nongovernmental organizations and UN bodies addressed the Committee on efforts and proposals in that area.

The Committee, for lack of time, did not complete discussion of other agenda items, such as biomass for energy, development of energy resources in developing countries, and energy coordination.

Seeking alternatives

Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development, told the experts that in order to initiate an energy transformation in rural areas by the year 2000, alternative and renewable sources of energy had to be made available. Related issues, he said, included: scarcity of energy at the local level; energy development as a source of employment; and energy management questions. The question of energy for rural development was crucial to the process of achieving sustainable development. …