Energy drought

OECD Observer

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The fact that 1.6 billion people in the world have no electricity and 2.4 billion rely on primitive biomass (wood, agricultural residues, dung) for power may be shocking, but what is worse is that without radical new policies, the figures will be virtually the same 30 years from now.

That is one message of the International Energy Agency's latest World Energy Outlook and "this is not a sustainable future," says IEA executive director Robert Priddle. Although access to electricity is spreading, it is not growing as fast as the world population, and on current trends 1.4 billion people will still be without electricity in 2030, the World Energy Outlook says. And because electricity is relatively expensive when it does arrive, people do not simply substitute it for biomass sources of energy.

Many homes in developing countries use electricity only for light and still use wood and other biomass products for cooking and heating. As a result, on current trends the number of people reliant on biomass is expected to rise to 2.6 billion in the next 30 years, at significant cost to human health and the environment because of smoke pollution and reduction of natural biomass resources.

Because biomass will continue to dominate energy demand in developing countries in the foreseeable future, the development of more efficient biomass technologies is vital for alleviating poverty, creating employment and expanding rural markets, the Energy Outlook says. The IEA is a 26-member sister organisation of the OECD dealing with energy issues.

•IEA, World Energy Outlook, 2002. 

©OECD Observer No 234, October 2002




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