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close this bookRural Energy and Development: Improving Energy Supply for Two Billion People (WB, 1996, 132 p.)
close this folderChapter five - Innovations in renewable energy
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentTechnical progress in using the solar resource
View the documentPolicies toward new renewable energy sources in rural areas
View the documentProgram development
View the documentPrices
View the documentCredit
View the documentTaxes and subsidies


Recent developments in renewable energy technologies have greatly added to the options available for improving rural energy supplies. The main technologies suited to rural areas are micro-hydro. biogas. wind generators. wind pumps. solar heaters for hot water and sustainable ways to provide wood supplies. All these are important sources of energy anti can be developed further. as illustrated by the examples of China (box 5.1) and Pura in India (box 3.2).). A more recent development has been the use of photovoltaic (PV) systems to provide electricity supplies for such small-scale applications as electric lights; and domestic appliances. refrigeration for clinics. village water pumps, street lighting. and health clinics and schools. For small-scale applications in rural areas, PVs are often less expensive and more reliable than grid supplies or diesel motors. The encouraging feature of the Kenya example discussed in box 4.4 was that it was financed on a purely private basis (van der Plas 1994). Solar thermal electric systems using parabolic dishes are also showing much promise for small-scale supplies (Ahmed 1993).

Aside from their environmental appeal, new renewable energy technologies are attracting professional interest for several reasons. namely: the abundance of the solar resource. from which most forms of renewable energy are derived: technical progress and cost reductions: and the modularity of the technologies. The rest of this chapter will focus on technological progress and on the supporting policies needed if renewable energy is to be widely used in rural areas.