Access to energy for rural communities
Where good solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, or biomass resources exist, they can be used as a substitute for fossil fuels to generate heat or electricity for use on farms or in aquaculture operations. Food processing plants can use biomass by-products for co-generating heat and power; which are usually consumed on-site. In some instances, excess electricity is produced and sold to the electricity grid generating additional revenues for the provider. Such activities can benefit farmers, landowners, small industries and local communities, and contribute to rural development. There are many examples of rural municipalities strengthening rural development by attracting new business ventures because of their availability of local renewable energy resources.
Traditional biomass used for energy (fuelwood, crop residues and animal dung) is often scavenged, which usually demands considerable labour and time. It is widely used in low-GDP countries for domestic uses, particularly cooking and heating. Traditional sources of biomass, however, are not always sustainably produced and smoke and carbon monoxide emissions can lead to health and safety issues.
The poor availability of efficient modern energy services in many regions is a fundamental barrier to economic and social development. Providing energy services can do much to improve food production and consumption, and to ultimately safeguard food security. In the most impoverished households in low-GDP countries, the food bill can account for between 50 to 80 percent of total expenditures. In high-GDP countries; by comparison, the average household spends only 7 to 15 percent of its budget on food. Access to modern energy services is needed to facilitate economic activities and improved livelihoods. A significant segment of the population in low-GDP countries live in households depending primarily on agriculture and the agri-based economy for their livelihoods. Improved agricultural practices in agricultural production, agro-processing, post-harvest and storage facilities, and distribution and retail can contribute to poverty alleviation. All this requires the local availability of modern energy services. Furthermore, considering that today almost 3 billion people have limited access to modern energy services for heating and cooking at the household level, and 1.4 billion have zero or limited access to electricity, energy services provision linked to agri-food systems can contribute to meeting basic energy needs, hence improving livelihoods and support local development.