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close this book Sustainable Energy News. - No. 15 November 1996
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Renewable Energy with Active

Participation of All the World's People

INFORSE Statement to the World Solar Summit It was submitted to the chairman of the Solar Summit included in the minutes of the Summit

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for this opportunity to speak on behalf of INFORSE, an international network of more than 150 non-goverumental and community-based organizations (NGOs and CBOs) from around the world. Collectively, we have many years of hands-on experience in the development and dissemination of solar and other renewable energy technologies throughout the urban and rural South and North Our comments are derived from a bottom-up process to which we as NGOs are committed. They are gathered from the inputs of many people and organizations through regional preparatory meetings around the world and from a series of workshops here in Zimbabwe, just prior to this World Solar Summit.

1. Among the most important lessons we have to offer here in Harare is that, while many renewable energy technologies have reached maturity, technology alone cannot provide answers to pressing global problems. Technology is only a valuable tool when it is in the hands of fully empowered people who wisely use the resources available to them for the benefit of all living things.

2. The Solar Summit has created an important forum to discuss the vast potential of Renewable Energy Technologies (RETs) for developing countries. However, it should be remembered that the excessive use of energy in industrially developed countries is what continues to drain the world's fossil fuel resources, continues to create global inequalities and catastrophic climate change, which impacts developing countries most adversely. It must be made clear that the northern over-developed countries should take the lead in adopting their own sustainable energy policies, by drastically cutting their energy consumption and increasing their reliance on renewable sources of energy.

3. The past decade has proved that many renewable energy technologies are now fully competitive with fossil fuels and will be more competitive in the future, especially when the full social and environment costs of technologies are entered into the equation. In order to achieve wide scale dissemination the focus in the next decade should be less on technology and more on building the organisational infrastructure necessary to deliver these technologies where they can best be of use and to those most in need. This includes development of locally-based forms for ownership, finance, operation, and maintenance, as well as viable micro-enterprises and cooperatives. NGOs must play a major role in this development to maximize its success.

4. While market development is an important element of a strategy for renewable energy, experiences show that the market oily reaches the relatively well-off who are able to pay the up-front purchase costs. If renewable energy is really to meet the needs of the poor, a range of alternative and community based approaches need to be developed. Recent experience from many countries, including Senegal, South Pacific, India, and Denmark, can point to a number of models worthy of consideration.

5. Some speakers have suggested that solar technologies are simply an intermediary technology: a kind of place holder until the grid can be established, tying all the world together by wire and poles. We suggest that the grid may well be outdated, just as cellular phones are rapidly making telephone poles and wiring a thing of the past. Instead of waiting for 50 years to get the benefits of electricity, the rural majority in many developing countries will be able to bypass the grid phase and experience energy independence based on local sources of renewable energy.

6. Global and national energy policies and programs should emanate from the varied social and economic needs of the end-users of energy services, such as the need to cook food, pump water, light homes and schools, and provide engine power for a host of

different purposes. Access to these energy services should be universal and secured from renewable resources without destroying the environment, based on the most energy-efficient practises and technologies available.

7. Energy is a cross-cutting issue, bridging several sectors such as agriculture, health, water supply, education, industry. All sectors of society are consumers of energy and should be the targets of energy efficiency and renewable energy programmes. As such, energy must be fully integrated with social and environmental concerns and steer clear of narrow minded sectoral approaches and short-term solutions. As women's lives are most heavily impacted by changing energy technologies, women must be engaged in every level of energy planning and decision-making

8. While renewable energy holds great promise for rural areas, particularly for water and electric supply to reverse desertification and to promote arid land development, they are equally important for densely populated urban areas. This goes for technologies such as passive solar design of houses, solar cookers, solar water heaters, biofuels and biogas, and small scale hydro and wind energy applications.

9. In its focus on renewable energy for rural areas, the Solar Decade should recognze that a most immediate and urgent energy problem is energy for domestic purposes of cooking

and water supply, both in urban and rural areas, as well as gardening and micro-industrial development. Better management of tree resources, improved access to fuel wood, more efficient stoves and charcoal production processes, as well as solar cookers and biogas plants are important elements in alleviating these problems.

10. Education, training, and awareness are crucial elements in a sustainable energy development strategy. In addition to integration of renewable energy into the curricula of universities as well as technical, secondary, and primary schools, a strong emphasis on non-formal education is needed. Non-formal education includes local awareness activities and community training. It incorporates local cultural traditions, attitudes, and skills. Non-formal educational activities provide a framework for mobilizing local resources and local participation in energy programmes.

11. In summary, Mr. Chainnan, this statement reflects the experiences of many, many NGOs from all over the world, involved in renewable energy development for several decades. The lessons gained from these experiences are crucial to the success of the Solar Decade and the World Solar Programme. We urge the Governments, the Regional Solar Councils, and the World Solar Commission to ensure that NGOs and community based organizations become fully involved in the planning and implementation of the World Solar Programme. Even more significantly, we all must realize that a country and region cannot be developed on a project-by-project basis, but only through comprehensive energy policies and strategies that are fully integrated into existing national as well as regional industrial development policies and plans. We recommend that NGO and CBO input be actively sought and fully considered in developing and implementing these plans.

We look forward to ongoing cooperation and involvement in all renewable energy planning, so that in 2005, we can all look back at a successful Solar Decade: a decade that transformed renewable energy from playing a marginal to a central role in the global energy balance, based on the active participation of all the world's people.