66. FAO, in keeping with its mandate to promote sustainable development, has undertaken the exercise of developing a new framework for energy planning for sustainable agriculture and rural development, which involves preparation and implementation of decentralized area-based integrated rural energy plans. These plans, and the projects based on them: provide for all types of energy resources, commercial, non-commercial, and renewable, for the subsistence and productive needs of a rural micro-region at the least cost to the economy and to the local and global environment.
67. The planning and implementation of decentralized and micro-level integrated rural energy plans and projects which, although prepared with the active participation of the local rural beneficiaries, will have to be undertaken as part of a comprehensive national effort, in which the institutional and administrative infrastructure at the national, provincial, district and grassroots level are actively involved in the effective preparation and implementation of these plans and projects.
68. For this purpose, institutional mechanisms and coordination arrangements need to be developed or organized at different levels - including grassroots planning and implementation for rural energy planning and projects; provincial level units and agencies; national level policy guidance and planning; and an inter-ministerial steering group to provide political and economic support to the programme.
69. The development and organization of these implementation arrangements can be effectively carried out as part of a phased national programme involving awareness building, setting up a few pilot projects to gain field experience on the institutional arrangements and feed back from rural beneficiaries on the performance of technologies and other inputs.
70. The programme can gradually be increased to cover more micro-regions, and to include: activities for manpower development and for training field and executive staff, as well as planning and policy-making professionals, etc.; development of manufacturing and repair and maintenance capabilities for rural energy technologies; utilization of computers to link micro-level and macro-level planning for cost effective investment decision-making; organization of people's participation with the help and involvement of non-governmental and voluntary organizations; and, utilization of environmental and sustainability criteria in all aspects of the programme.
71. The resource requirements for launching such a national integrated rural energy planning programme would initially be mainly to set-up the institutional mechanisms, develop planning and project formulation capabilities, and to provide training facilities in the country. The training facilities could be common to several countries in a particular region and regional training and R&D activities could be established for this purpose under regional and international cooperation programmes
72. The implementation of the micro-level projects, taken-up as part of the programme, would require inputs from on-going rural energy supply programmes such as those for fuelwood, rural electrification, renewable energy sources, oil and gas, coal, etc. New activities could also be taken-up for promoting new energy technologies, and for providing back-up for R&D inputs, technical services and extension.
73. The resource requirements for institution building and supply inputs for energy resources and technologies would vary from country to country, and would have to be worked out for each specific situation. However, based on available data and experience, the expected benefits of the programme in terms of building up capabilities for tackling the problems of economic stagnation and the large-scale environmental damages that are now being caused by the rural energy crisis, would far exceed the cost of preparing and implementing the programme.
74. FAO, in keeping with the high priority it gives to sustainable agricultural and rural development through planned inputs of energy, would provide technical assistance to developing countries to examine the approach discussed in this document and to organize and launch integrated rural energy planning programmes.