1. Sustainable development is now becoming the guiding theme of many of the development programmes of national governments and international agencies. The UN General Assembly has called upon the governing bodies in the UN System to "review their policies, programmes, budgets and activities aimed at contributing to sustainable development".
2. FAO, as the specialized agency of the UN concerned with food, agriculture and overall rural development, has always been concerned with matters now defined as part of "sustainable development" (1). Energy and environment activities cut through the work of many FAO Departments. An Inter-departmental Working Group on Environment and Energy was established by FAO in 1969 to act as the focal point for these activities, to facilitate coordination between energy and environment, and to promote the concept of sustainable development (2).
3. While sustainable development concerns all activities in the energy sector and their close relationship with environment and development, as brought out in the Report on Energy to the World Commission on Environment and Development, this concept is, perhaps, nowhere more relevant than in meeting the growing energy needs for subsistence and production, of the more than three billion people living in the rural areas of the developing countries (3).
4. More than 75% of the energy needs of the rural areas in Africa, Asia and Latin America are met by "non-commercial" energy sources: firewood, cow dung and agricultural waste. The continuing and widespread use of "non-commercial energy" sources, as a result of the low economic power of the growing population and its dependence on rapidly diminishing supplies of firewood (and in its absence, on manure and agricultural waste), has become a major cause for large-scale environmental problems including deforestation, soil erosion, loss in soil fertility, etc., in several developing countries (4).
5. The transition from the growing use of non-commercial energy sources, which results in the rapid degradation of the environment, to more efficient commercial energy forms, has been seriously hampered by the oil price adjustments of the 1970s, the subsequent shortages of all forms of commercial energy, and the continuing uncertainty of the availability of petroleum-based fuels. While the contribution of non-commercial energy, as a proportion of the total energy consumed in many developing countries, has become less, the absolute consumption of non-commercial energy has continued to increase and therefore the social costs of meeting rural energy needs has been increasing rapidly over the last few decades (5).
6. The rural areas in the developing countries have thus been caught up in a vicious cycle of poverty and under-development, due to the scarcity of efficient commercial energy forms together with the poor economic situation of the rural people. The economic situation of the rural people could be increased through the promotion of new economic activities in the rural areas, and by increasing agricultural and non-agricultural income-generating activities. However, these activities require, as a basic input, the utilization of efficient energy sources and technologies including petroleum-based fossil fuels, electricity, and renewable energy technologies whenever these are technologically feasible and cost-effective.
7. Programmes for New and Renewable Sources of Energy (NRSE) have been promoted by FAO, as well as by other UN agencies, especially following the UN Conference on NRSE in Nairobi in 1981. However, during the past decade the combined impact of these NRSE programmes in meeting rural energy needs has been marginal. The technologies for harnessing renewable energy sources, including solar, wind and biomass, continue to be often way beyond the reach of the people in the rural areas in the developing countries, and their dissemination requires major government budgetary support and investments (6).
8. Technology development efforts for reducing costs and improving the efficiency of renewable energy technologies, especially in the industrialized countries, have received a major setback due to the fall in oil prices. Most developing countries have, for a variety of reasons, made limited progress in developing indigenous cost-effective NRSE for meeting any significant proportion of their energy needs. Moreover, the few renewable energy programmes that have reached the operational stage in the rural areas, for example, the improved woodstove and biogas programmes, do not directly increase income and productivity, and the rural people continue with their subsistence level existence, dependent on firewood and agricultural and animal wastes, in order to meet their basic needs.
9. In view of the continued importance of fuelwood as a major rural energy source, FAO, in coordination With other UN agencies, has initiated several programmes to augment the fuelwood supply in the rural areas of the developing countries, for example, through its Tropical Forestry Action Plan (8). Several developing countries have launched social forestry programmes with their own resources, and with the assistance of various bilateral and multilateral agencies. However, these social forestry and fuelwood programmes have made a limited impact in meeting the fuelwood and fodder needs of the rural people, especially the rural poor, as assessed during recent studies. Fuelwood is increasingly finding its way into the markets of urban and semi - urban areas due to the general scarcity and relatively high prices of commercial energy. Rural people are either unable to afford fuelwood, or have to utilize it to increase their income, with the result that rural energy problems have often remained untackled, despite the large-scale sale investments made in social forestry and fuelwood programmes (9).
10. As stated above, rural incomes can be increased by sustainable economic activities which require commercial energy such as electricity, oil, gas and coal as a basic input. However, commercial energy supply, which has been scarce since the 1970's, has now received a further set-back because of the worldwide concern for the environmental damage caused by the utilization of fossil fuels.
11. The global concern for the increase in air pollution, acidification of the environment and climatic changes due to the use of fossil fuels, the destruction of forests caused by hydro-projects, and the widespread fear for the safety aspects of nuclear energy, is contributing towards the slowing down of support from multilateral and bilateral agencies for commercial energy production programmes (10). The effects of environmental awareness are already being observed by the blocking of ongoing power projects by environmental agencies and groups in some major developing countries (11). Many developing countries fear that the environmental factor may further widen the gap between the developing and industrialized countries in the consumption of commercial energy (12).
12. In this situation of overall scarcity of the energy required for sustainable development, the rural areas of the developing countries are the worst affected. This scarcity is further aggravated by the steady depletion of fossil fuels, their increasing costs, and the uncertainty of their availability; the growing awareness of the environmental hazards of producing energy from fossil fuels; the lack of progress in the development and commercialization of cost-effective new and renewable energy sources; and, the limited role of fuelwood programmes.
13. Therefore, while the overall energy supply for developing countries needs to be increased, the rural energy situation in these countries needs to be specifically and urgently tackled through conscious and deliberate interventions by national governments and international agencies in order to increase the energy supply from all types of energy resources. These interventions would have to be carried out through systematic assessment and planning, taking into account the constraints in supply and the requirements for different end-uses. The planning goals would include, not only provision for the basic needs of cooking, heating and lighting of the rural poor, and the creation of sustainable economic activities to eliminate the economic stagnation of the rural areas, but also the prevention of the growing degradation of the environment caused by the unchecked consumption of "non-commercial" energy resources.
14. Sustainable development of the rural areas would thus be possible when energy needs are integrated with environmental Concerns at the local and global levels, and for this purpose an integrated planning framework would be necessary. FAO's own energy activities and other related programmes in energy, environment and planning, have also brought out the need for developing such a framework for integrated- rural energy planning and assessment in order to meet the energy requirements for sustainable agriculture and rural development, with the lowest possible cost to the economy and the environment (13).
15. The design and development of such an integrated approach for rural energy planning, and the framework to make this approach operational in its member developing countries, has been undertaken as a major activity of FAO's Energy and Environment Programme over the past few years. For this purpose, FAO collaborated in the preparation of studies and surveys to assess the work being done on energy assessment and planning for agriculture and rural development in its member countries. A study commissioned by FAO on "Rural Energy Planning in China and other developing countries" was published in 1985 (14). Subsequently, another study on "Integrated Rural Energy Planning Programme in India" was found to be especially advanced and relevant to FAO's activity in this field (15). Based on this Programme, and related experiences in other countries, a report on "Energy Planning for Agriculture and Rural Development" was prepared in October 1987 (16) and was discussed during an Expert Consultation convened by FAO/ESCAP/UNDP in Rome in April 1988 (17).
16. The deliberations of the Expert Consultation and several other studies, were utilized in the preparation of a Discussion Paper on "Energy Assessment and Planning for Agriculture and Rural Development (with special reference to Asian countries)". This served as the theme paper for an FAO/ESCAP/UNDP sponsored Regional Workshop on "Energy Assessment and Planning for Rural and Agriculture Development" held in Beijing, China in September 1989 (18). The discussions in this Workshop, in which representatives from thirteen Asian countries participated, confirmed this proposed approach.
17. The theme paper for the China Workshop was also discussed by FAO with various Latin American and African countries, and the proposed approach was also found to be relevant to them. They also provided various suggestions for its implementation in their respective situations and regional expert groups are presently discussing documentation prepared in this field (19).
18. Based on these inputs, as well as other recent studies on energy-environment interactions and sustainable development, a new approach for integrated rural energy planning for the accelerated and sustainable development of rural areas within the constraints of resources and environment, has been developed and presented in this document. The central feature of the new approach is the preparation and implementation of area-based decentralized energy plans for meeting energy needs for subsistence and development at the least cost to the economy and the environment, and linking the micro-level plans with national economic planning and development programmes, including those for the energy, agriculture and rural development sectors.
19. This document presents a brief account of the work of FAO in the design and development of the new integrated approach for energy planning for sustainable agriculture and rural development. The document has been prepared as follows: the justification and conceptual content of the integrated approach is discussed in Chapter I; the framework, including the methodology for preparing and implementing area-based integrated rural energy plans has been presented in Chapter II; Chapter III discusses the implementation of the framework, including the problems and constraints in implementation, and the strategies and mechanisms for overcoming them; Chapter IV gives the outline of a national level phased programme for setting up the proposed framework in developing countries; the concluding chapter briefly outlines the resource requirements and benefits of the proposed integrated rural energy planning programme for accelerated and sustainable development of rural areas in the developing countries.