20. The major objectives of FAO include raising the level of nutrition and standards of living of the people in its member countries, increasing production and distribution of food and agricultural products, and improving the conditions of the rural people, through programmes of sustainable agricultural and rural development. Energy is a vital input in the fulfillment of all these objectives. Energy has also become a critical input, and a major constraint in sustainable agriculture and rural development, since the first oil price adjustment in the early 1970s, which brought in its wake shortages of all forms of commercial energy in most developing countries. Commercial energy shortages, combined with the "other energy crisis", caused by the continued dependence of the rural people, on the rapidly dwindling non-commercial biomass resources of firewood, crop waste end: manure have hit the rural areas in the developing countries the hardest.
21. The "rural energy crisis" has been receiving increasing attention from development policy makers because it affects the very survival of the vast majority of the world's population, who live in the rural areas of the developing countries, and is also deeply inter-linked with the whole concept of sustainable development (20). The linkages between rural energy and sustainable development, however, need to be understood in the overall context of the energy situation in the developing countries.
22. Energy scenarios in the developing countries vary widely. However, there are certain features common to most of these countries which can be taken into account in developing an integrated approach for energy planning for the sustainable development of their rural areas. These common features include:
- Total energy, in all forms, used in the economy, as well as per capita energy consumption, is much lower in the developing countries than in industrialized countries. This shows the need to augment energy production from all sources as a first priority in meeting development needs for subsistence and production in the developing countries (21). It also reflects the need for more efficient energy utilization in industrialized countries.
- A major proportion of the total "commercial energy" is consumed in the urban and industrial sectors, and for transportation, with agriculture and the rural sector getting a relatively small share of the available commercial energy.
- A major proportion of the total energy consumed in many developing countries continues to be provided by "noncommercial" energy sources - firewood, manure draught and pack animals and agricultural wastes which are mostly utilized in the rural areas.
- Energy is not only scarce in the developing countries, but it is used inefficiently both in urban and rural areas, with the result that the per unit consumption of energy is much higher than the per unit increase in national gross domestic product. Energy elasticity with respect to gross domestic product is much higher than unity in the developing countries, as compared to less than unity in the industrialized countries (22).
23. The above features bring out the sharp disparities between the energy consumption of developing and industrialized countries, as well as between the rural and urban areas within the developing countries. These areas require urgent interventions which have to be undertaken through integrated energy planning mechanisms which specifically take into account energy requirements for sustainable agriculture and rural development.
24. Recognizing the critical role of energy for sustaining their economic growth, most developing countries have set up institutional mechanisms for energy sector policies and planning. However, energy sector planning in the developing countries, in its present form does not specifically meet the energy requirements for sustainable agriculture and rural development, except perhaps on a very aggregate, country-wide basis. The result is that there is often a lack of energy in the rural sector, as compared with the high energy consuming urban and industrial sectors.
25. Agriculture, for example, which contributes to the major proportion of national income and provides employment for more than half the workforce, usually gets 5 to 10% of the total commercial energy in these countries. The growth of other non-agricultural income-generating activities (such as agro and other rural industries) which have potential for providing employment to the growing labour force, and stem large scale rural/urban migration, is often seriously constrained due to the scarcity of commercial energy for rural development (23).
26. Rural economies in the developing countries, which support more than 70% of the world's population, are thus characterized by an intensity of energy consumption which is significantly lower when compared to that for urban areas. Moreover, energy in rural areas is used mainly for household consumption (as compared to urban areas, where the main consumers of energy are industry and transport). These household energy needs are met by "non-commercial" energy sources which are secured by private efforts at almost zero private cost. Non-commercial energy forms are outside the planning process and, even if awareness exists in conserving their resource base, the rural people often have no other alternative for their survival. Thus, economic and fiscal sanctions, and legal and administrative measures, make little impact in controlling the damage that is being caused to the environment by the continuing, widespread and often unsustainable use of these resources.
27. The rural energy consumption pattern, and its impact on the environment, has been the subject of several studies by many national and international agencies in the recent past. While the broad features of the rural energy consumption pattern in most developing countries may be similar, there is a marked variation in the specific end-uses and energy forms used from region to region, and from micro-region to micro-region, representing different agro-climatic and eco-systems within a country. This brings out the need for carrying out energy assessment and planning for sustainable agriculture and rural development, not only at the national or macro levels, but also at the decentralized and micro-levels (24).
28. Such micro-level area-based integrated planning would also have to take into account socio-cultural and economic variables, their relationship to the existing and desired patterns of energy consumption, environmental constraints in the micro-region, and, above all, the needs and priorities of the rural people as they see them (25).
29. Furthermore, as noted above, the economic situation of the rural people can be increased through promotion of economic activities and increasing the productivity of existing agricultural and non-agricultural activities which, in turn, require commercial energy as a critical input. A close relationship thus exists between the prevention of the destruction of the environment due to indiscriminate use of non-commercial energy sources, and utilization of commercial energy for improving productivity, creating employment and increasing income in rural areas.
30. Area-based micro-level integrated planning for meeting rural energy needs for subsistence and development, would therefore have to include, not only renewable energy resources which may be tapped locally, but also various commercial energy sources, including electricity, petroleum products, and coal, required for productive agricultural and non-agricultural activities for the economic development of the rural region. These commercial sources of energy often have to come from outside the rural region, or even from outside the country, and their production, procurement and distribution is usually planned and regulated at the national and provincial levels.
31. The proposed integrated approach for rural energy planning, therefore, while being area-based, with a micro-focus, and prepared with the active involvement of the potential rural beneficiaries, needs to be closely integrated with energy supply and demand and the economic situation at the national and provincial level. Such an integrated approach will ensure the equitable distribution of energy and bring about a reduction in the existing sharp rural/urban imbalances in energy consumption, and, within a rural micro-region, between the rural rich and the rural poor (26).
32. Moreover, this integrated approach for rural energy planning would also reconcile environmental considerations at the local level with national and global concerns. Finally, the integrated approach will provide the basis for coordinating the programmes at the micro-level - including those for technology transfer, research and development inputs, especially for developing low cost energy options for the low income groups in rural areas, education, extension and training programmes for rural beneficiaries, and people's participation (27).
33. In summary, the multi-dimensional and complex rural "other energy crisis" needs a comprehensive, integrated approach for tackling it. This integrated approach involves the preparation of micro-level area-based integrated rural energy plans, through which the most cost-effective mixture of different energy sources - commercial, non-commercial, renewable and nonrenewable - for meeting the diverse energy needs for subsistence and production of the different income groups in the rural area, are determined. The approach needs to take into account various technical, socio-economic and cultural constraints, including the people's needs and priorities, and coordination and integration of environmental concerns at local, regional and global levels, with existing and proposed development programmes in the micro region. The integrated area-based energy plans have to be linked with the total economy and energy sectors of the country in order to ensure the integration of energy with employment and environment as part of the total Development process.
34. The linking of micro-planning for energy with other sectors of development at the micro-level on the one hand, and with the energy sector, environmental concerns and the economic development programmes and plans at the provincial and national level, on the other, is a complex process which involves overcoming a large number of institutional and sectoral barriers and constraints. The proposed new integrated approach, therefore, requires a new framework for planning to make it operational. The design and components of this framework are discussed in the next chapter.