Village Power 2000


The U.S. Department of Energy's contribution to the Millennium Program will be to work to bring clean and affordable energy to the hundreds of millions of rural people, especially women and children, throughout the world who currently have no access to electric power.

Through the efforts of the Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Village Power program, DOE is helping to diffuse clean and sustainable renewable energy technologies that support economic development while protecting the global environment.

The Department will coordinate U.S. efforts through the Village Power 2000 program and create a working group to mobilize the resources of the Federal government, bi-lateral, multi-lateral and regional development banks, the private sector and non-government organizations to identify and promote project opportunities, facilitate partnerships, and assist in overcoming technical, institutional, and financial barriers.

As we enter the third millennium there are still two billion people without access to electricity and the services it provides, and another half to one billion with limited access.

Without energy there can be little economic development, clean water, refrigerated foods and medicines, no telephones, radios, televisions -- the most basic forms of communication -- let alone computers and the Internet. The implications for political modernization, stability and democracy are enormous.

Many rural areas are too remote or too poor to support energy systems that are connected to the electricity grid. People flock to the cities in developing countries because that is where the infrastructure is best established. But this infrastructure is often quickly overwhelmed, while at the same time agricultural production falls, and social and political strains intensify. Many developing countries face population growth that far exceeds planned rates of connection to the electricity grid, so that many rural populations will either remain without energy, or be forced to migrate.

While the search for energy is a major daily drive for the rural poor, it is especially burdensome on women. In most developing countries women spend far more time than men engaged in energy-related "survival activities" such as firewood collection, food processing, and water hauling.

Providing women with access to energy frees up their time so that they can engage in other income-generating activities.

Renewable technologies can change life for rural people and offer new possibilities for economic and social development, education, and political participation to this vast sector of the human population.

While electricity and clean fuels do not by themselves create social and economic development, they are essential ingredients of any practical and sustainable development process. Renewable energy technologies are especially well-suited to the needs of dispersed rural populations that are often beyond the reach of traditional electrification schemes.

There currently are renewable energy options that can provide rural electrification at an affordable cost. For example, a 50-watt photovoltaic solar home system can support three to five lights, a radio/cassette and a television at a price of about $500. Until recently this up-front payment was too high for most rural people. Public-private partnerships between development agencies and for profit companies have established a new delivery mechanism: customers make a small down payment and monthly fees to lease the equipment. By removing the technical and financial burden from the end users, these approaches can open up large markets for renewable energy options.

In addition to photovoltaics, there are other renewable technologies, such as wind electric power, micro-hydro and biomass energy systems that the Depaartment of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is helping to integrate into rural energy strategies.

NREL International Programs are providing technical expertise, training, staffing, and assistance to in-country partners in Mexico, The Dominican Republic, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Ghana, Indonesia, The Philippines, China, and Russia. The projects have ranged from rural electrification for village residents, schools and community centers and health care clinics to water pumping, desalination and disinfection of water, and development of cleaner cooking and transportation fuels for populations suffering from extreme pollution and air-quality problems.

The Life of a Poor Rural Woman in Pakistan

"I get up before the sun and fetch the water and fuel wood... one hour going up and one hour coming down the mountain. I start the fire, make bread and tea for the children. Feed my cow and goats, clean the animal shed, sweep the house. I may eat if anything is left. I go out to the field where I grow wheat and vegetables, but not enough to sell. I give the children some tea, sometimes only warm water. I go back to the field again. I do some wash, go fetch water and wood again before the sun goes down. It takes longer in the afternoon. It is hot and I am tired. I start the fire again, and make supper -- some bread and lentils. Sometimes only tea to drink. More housework. I talk to my children before sleeping-- I like this time best."

As related in the Village Power '98 Presentation
by Ms. Mieko Nishimizu, Vice President for South Asia, World Bank

The Challenge Before Us

Rural women throughout the world want to come out of the darkness, both physical and mental. They want access to labor-saving devices that can make their daily lives easier, they want to extend their day so they can earn income through activities like sewing and weaving, they want their children to have light so that they can study in the evening, and they want to have contact with the world beyond their village that radios, telephones and television afford. They want their children to have access to distance learning, and dream that, some day, they too might be able to read and write. The decentralized high-quality energy services that renewable energy technologies provide can help make that possible.

Renewable energy technologies offer a means for rural people to break out of the cycle of poverty and into the Twenty First Century. As the recently held Village Power '98 Conference concluded: we must now gather all of our energies to bring these technologies to those who most need them.

Village Power 2000 will hold meetings, in Washington, D.C. and regionally, that will be targeted at the NGO, business, and financial communities to encourage public-private partnerships to promote rural electrification through the use of renewable energy. Village Power 2000 will publish a guidebook on micro-enterprise as a means to generate local income and provide revenue for repayment of rural electrification projects. In recognition of the significant impact that energy use and availability have on women and children, Village Power 2000 will establish a web-based messaging environment where everyone interested in these issues can share information.

For more information, contact Dr. Marie-Louise Caravatti.

Home Overview Uganda Press Partners
website design and hosting by
A Millenium Partner
Tel: 1.802.685.3009
EMail Village Power 2000