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The future

The world is presently undergoing a seizure of change as a result of a new political and economic order that is leading society towards a radical redefinition of relationships between government, the marketplace and the individual. Accelerating economic and industrial growth in many parts of the globe will require ever-increasing energy supplies to sustain the momentum of production activides.

The effects of this changing economic climate on the energy sector include a trend towards diversified and decentralised, energy scenarios. With these new scenarios, 'new breeds' and partnerships of achievers and entrepreneurs are emerging, hungry for opportunities to invest in gainful energy ventures.

Biomass (including forest biomass) is an increasingly attractive energy source from an investment point of view. It offers the prospect of devising novel energy mixes which cannot only be put to orthodox household uses but can also provide feedstock for electricity generation, district heating and transportation fuels on a large or small scale and in developed or developing countries alike.

Wood-based and other biomass fuels can be produced and made available locally wherever suitable growing conditions exist and combined with other local energy sources available (see page 71, Multiple hybrid bioenergy systems). Their cultivation can have many positive environmental effects as well as contributing to rural development by creating new jobs, generating income and attracting social funds and infrastructural improvements to neighbourhoods that have not so far benefited from the new economic world order.

Bioenergy projects, especially if based on wood energy, promise to deliver a form of energy development that puts local people in the centre of the picture, enabling them to fulfil the injunction to 'think globally - act locally' and other key axioms of modern sustainable development practice (see Fig. 9 page 27). Decentralised, area-based bioenergy production using combinations of biomass materials best suited to prevailing environmental and production conditions, has the potential to set a worldwide pattern of innovative land use and crop diversification. Putting bioenergy prospects into practice will, even so, require thoroughly orchestrated and well-planned methodologies if the environmental and social impacts of these innovations are to be kept within safe limits. Intending developers should take full advantage of professional expertise and guidance from within the official and private sectors to establish benchmark standards of best practice and to tune progress to relevant environmental and social concerns in order to ensure its sustainability. Accordingly, FAO's Wood Energy Programme will be geared to:

• setting guidelines for environmentally responsible use of wood and other biomass for energy purposes;

• advising national governments on better ways to use their available biomass and, where feasible, create new stocks for energy applications;

• building productive and creative partnerships with other intergovernmental bodies, with private sector interest groups and with independent non-government organizations;

• mobilising human, financial and technical resources so as to apply them to sustainable development of bioenergy initiatives, programmes, projects and experiments;

• ensuring a free flow of information and technical data to enable progress on the ground to be constantly measured;

• providing assistance, information and support to CSD through the relevant channels, as and when required;

• building capacity at international, regional and national levels, to boost the performance of traditional biomass energy practices and devise innovative modern uses, promoting both as environmentally responsible, technologically mature, economically feasible and socially acceptable energy uses for today and tomorrow.


The range of FAO renewable energy programmes includes:

• activities on integrated energy sources that focus on developing a blend of energy sources and applications built into rural and agricultural planning, with a view to assisting countries to establish a range of energy-related development actions to meet specific requirements, so that enhanced/improved food security and fuel for people;

• broad-based energy assessment and planning consultations and collaborations with regional interests, such as the Latin American Working Group on Energy Planning for Sustainable Rural Development; the Latin American Energy Organization, ECLAC; the African Development Bank, ESCWA; the Economic Commission for Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Carribbean; the Inter-American Development Bank and many others. These consultations lay emphasis on promoting the development and application of mature and emerging renewable energy technologies;

• activities under the Tropical Forest Action Plan, including projects to test technologies such as biogas generation, organic recycling and gasification of wood and agricultural residues, as well more general scenarios for national planning approaches that integrate energy, forestry and agriculture concerns with social and cultural factors at every step;

• activities specific to wood energy development, including production of charcoal and wood-based commercial energy for industrial and community needs. Studies on woodfuel flows have been carried out in several countries in the RWEDP network and case-studies of electricity generation from woodfuels are underway in Argentina, Peru, Uruguay, Honduras and other countries in the Latin American Dendroenergy Network;

• FAO sponsors regional consultations in Latin America and Asia on wood energy and other RSE applications and develops partnerships with other government, non-government and private organizations.

Within FAO, activities relating to wood energy production and use are co-ordinated within the Forest Products Division (FOP) by the Non-Wood Products and Energy Branch, which determines overall strategic and policy requirements for sustainable wood energy development and relates this work to other renewable energy sources such as geothermal or hydro power and to conventional (including fossil-based) energy development.

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