|See also the Energy category.|
for subtopics, how-tos, project pages, designs, organization pages and more.
Energy is key to modern society, and is provided through:
- Fossil fuels: a storable form of energy which cause pollution and climate change
- Renewable energy from nature, namely solar, wind, geothermal, wave and tidal power. These are typically more expensive up front, but far more sustainable, cleaner and lower risk to the environment. Costs vary widely, and many specific technologies are under development.
- Biofuels: a storable form of energy which is either emissionless or close to emissionless
- Nuclear energy, which is a storable, emisionless form of energy, but carries risks (depending on the form of nuclear energy -ie through nuclear fission or nuclear fusion-).
- Human power - e.g. cycling for transport, which has benefits for health but which is a large burden if used for all required energy.
- Animal power - (see the pages in Category:Animal power). This is still used in developing countries, but relatively expensive in terms of feed used and time required for care.
 Problems with centralized power generation
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"It is the experience of most developing countries that energy produced through centralized thermal, hydroelectric and nuclear power stations rarely flows to rural areas where the bulk of the population lives. A typical distribution for such centralized power production is about 80% for urban industry (based on energy intensive Western technology), about 10% for urban domestic consumption, and only about 10% for rural areas." - CERES: The FAO Review on Development, March-April 1976
 Natural energy sources
The use of alternative natural sources of energy is attractive because of the uncertain price and limited availability of oil, the pollution that is associated with the burning of fossil fuels, the tremendous experiences and dangers of nuclear power, and a variety of other reasons. In developing countries the first reason is of particular importance because their industrial development, coming at a time of low cost plentiful oil supplies, has resulted in greater reliance on this single source of energy than is true in the developed countries, despite the fact that the latter use tremendously larger quantities. For industrialized countries such as the United
States, practical and economically competitive alternative energy systems already exist that could replace the entire nuclear power contribution to U.S. energy supplies. (Note: Wood space heating stoves [selling 1-2 million units a year] surpassed nuclear power in total contribution to U.S. energy supplies in 1980!)
For village level applications, there are many promising existing technologies. The five sections which follow explore of these in more depth: sun, wind, water, wood and biogas. These technologies are small-scale and necessarily decentralized . This, rather than any other technical inferiority, is the primary. reason earlier forms of these technologies were eventually passed over in the industrialized countries. While these systems cannot very effectively be used for the power needs of large industry, they can be well suited to the needs of villages and small communities. They can be low in cost relatively simple in construction and maintenance, made of materials available in villages and small towns, and non-polluting.
With each price increase in the worlds diminishing oil supply, renewable energy sources are made more attractive. The decentralized supply of these renewable energy sources - wind power, solar energy, water power and biofuels - matches the decentralized settlements of the rural South. Planners and program administrators are increasingly convinced that these technologies have a major role in the energy supplies of rural communities.