the year 2020, more than half of the developing world population
is expected to live in cities. With increased urban populations
and growing municipal and industrial sectors serving it, the amount
of energy use will grow steadily. Transport is one of the fastest-growing
sectors of energy use, with road transport being the major sub-sector.
play a vital role in development. In our rapidly urbanising world,
they have become the prime creators of growth, centres of productivity,
and important centres for social progress at every level. Increasingly
cities absorb population growth, offering significant economies
of scale in the provision of jobs, housing and services. Urban areas
invariably are centres of national economic development.
cities require vast amounts of resources both for their urban inhabitants
and for the economic activities concentrated there and are therefore
inherently unsustainable. But governance and human activities within
cities eventually determine whether the city is going to be sustainable
or not. The least restrictive interpretation of a sustainable community
would be one that is both resource efficient and relied only on
products of sustainable production.
The general importance of energy for human development is unmistakable,
although we often take its functions for granted. What is even less
obvious to many of us, however, is how closely energy production
and use are connected with major issues of concern such as economic
development and job creation, poverty, gender inequality, food security,
and the environment. In fact, the efficient production and use of
energy could provide important means to intervene positively in
these vital areas of human concern.
major obstacle to meeting this goal, however, lies in the way energy
is generally perceived within the framework of overall socio-economic
development. Presently, energy consumption, rather than the level
of energy services, is seen as the indicator of development. By
taking energy consumption as the measure of development, energy
planners are often simply concerned with increasing fuel and electricity
supplies based on existing patterns of energy use, rather than with
identifying and sustaining the level of energy services that would
be required to satisfy basic human needs. For while energy itself
is not a basic human need, it is an essential input for the fulfilment
of all basic needs. From the standpoint of sustainable human development,
therefore, what is urgently needed is a reorientation of ideas about
energy to focus on the manner in which it is presently utilised,
its potential for improving people’s quality of life, and
ways to increase access to its services for the poor.
is central to the satisfaction of basic nutrition and health needs,
and energy services such as cooking, lighting and heating constitute
a sizeable share of total household expenditure (between a 1/4 and
a 1/3) in developing countries. In general, people in poverty expend
more time and effort (standing in queues and/or gathering wood)
to obtain energy services that tend to be of lower quality (polluting,
hazardous and health adverse such as paraffin) than the energy services
available to the rich.
increasing the supply of energy (eg through grid connections) will
not better the situation or contribute to poverty alleviation as
it is the level of services (such as heating water) that needs to
be improved. Water could be heated free of charge by the sun, through
a solar water heater, a much better option for a poor household.
From the international to local imperatives it is quite clear that
poverty and sustainability are priority issues and that the city
has a lot to gain from a sustainable energy development path.
authorities are not only big energy users and significant distributors
of electricity (Figure 1) but are also ideally placed to influence
the energy use of others, as they are the primary planners and service
providers in the city.
are many social, economic and environmental benefits for local authorities
if they encourage sustainable energy practices in their city and
if they lead by example. Energy costs draw precious budgetary resources
from other important municipal functions such as education, public
transportation, and health care.
municipalities energy bill is largely dependent on how the local
authority behaves – it is a variable cost that can be controlled
by cutting down on wasteful energy consumption. The benefits of
lower energy consumption are clear. Using less energy means, lower
financial energy costs and improved competitiveness. Local Authorities
that manage their energy consumption effectively are also less vulnerable
when energy prices rise. Using less energy also means reduced local
pollutants and globally devastating carbon dioxide emissions. Whatever
the size or type of a local authority, everyone stands to gain from
being more energy efficient. Energy efficiency delivers not only
cost savings in the short-term but is important for the longer term
financial viability of a local authority taking into account factors
such as reputation, risk management, carbon management and environmental
If sustainable energy objectives are included in local authority
functions a local authority will save energy and save money while
delivering a service that improves local residents quality of life
and maintains global environmental integrity.
urban setting is different - and every city must identify and prioritise
its own problems in its own way. Prevailing notions about energy
are deeply supply-biased and growth-oriented, so that wide-ranging
policy innovation is, in fact, needed in order to realise the objective
of using energy as an instrument of sustainable human development.
Moreover, the transition to sustainable energy is necessarily affected
by numerous institutional impediments and shaped by current trends
sweeping the world. The latter include globalisation, marketisation,
popular participation in decision-making, the changing roles of
government, restructuring (and corporatisation) of energy utilities,
and the changing magnitude and mix of sources of external funding.
local energy plan is NOT another conventional plan; it is a dynamic
planning framework; it is NOT comprehensive, but strategically focused
on critical priority issues for which resources can therefore be
mobilised. The local government environment is changing and there
are opportunities for councils to extend their important leadership
role, to lead by example.
sustainable energy path to development is not only necessary to
ensure the future survival of humanity, but is also a vital aspect
of any agenda to eradicate existing poverty.