Part 2: Issues in Sustainable Development



Energy plays an important role in human development. Traditional woodfuel and fossil fuels both have negative consequences for the environment and for human health. Alternative energy technologies using renewable sources such as wind and solar energy are a more sustainable solution, but require high investment and need further development to increase efficiency.

Main Idea

Opportunity for new technologies to make a difference

Key Concepts

      • Environmental costs of fossil fuels
      • Alternative energy sources
      • Biofuel
      • Firewood problem
      • Health consequences of indoor air pollution


Knowledge of

      • African energy resources and opportunities
      • the causes and effects of indoor air pollution

Understanding of

      • the linkage between access to energy and development
      • how to evaluate the potential of alternative energy sources

Ability to

      • explain the differences in technology, costs, and applicability among alternative energy technologies

Core Readings

  1. The Energy Challenge, pages 4-6
    Linkages between energy access and human development (3 pages)
  2. Africa Environment Outlook 2, Chapter 2: Atmosphere, pages 51-57
    Overview of African energy resources and opportunities (7 pages)
  3. Indoor Air Pollution from Solid Fuels
    Summary of causes and health effects (3 pages)

Sustainability Strategies

  1. Photovoltaics
    Technology summary of photovoltaics and their key advantages (2 pages)
  2. Small Scale Hydro
    Technology summary of small scale hydropower and its key advantages
    (2 pages)
  3. Solar Thermal
    Technology and costs summary with key considerations (2 pages)
  4. Wind Power
    Technology and cost summary with key considerations (2 pages)
  5. Experts Highlight Role of Bio-Fuel in Achieving MDGs
    The potential for biofuels in Africa (1 pages)
  6. Biofuels Will Help Fight Hunger
    Biofuel as an energy, jobs, and trade asset (2 pages)
  7. African Rift Geothermal Energy Development Program
    A five-year, US$18 million, region-wide, multi-country program to add low-cost power generation in six countries of the Rift Valley (1 page)
  8. African Rural Energy Enterprise Development Profiles
    Five cases involve the expansion and development of enterprises that market solar dried food, mobile PV power back-up systems, energy efficient lighting, wind-powered water pumps, liquefied petroleum gas, and fuel substitution (biomass for heavy fuel) (3 pages)

Supplemental Readings

  1. The Energy Challenge
    Expanding energy services to poor in developing countries to meet Millennium Development Goals; includes much discussion of affordable pricing strategies (19 pages)
  2. Ghana
    Detailed study on projected energy demand and supply, including both fossil fuels and renewable sources (26 pages)
  3. Wood Energy in Africa
    Statistics on wood energy usage in Africa (16 pages)
  4. Solar Energy
    Advantages and limitations of solar energy power for rural development projects (3 pages)
  5. Bioenergy
    Explanation of reasons for championing bioenergy (biofuels, bioenergy, charcoal, etc.) especially in developing country context; institutional goals for promotion (19 pages)
  6. Sustainable Energy - A Framework for New and Renewable Energy in Southern Africa
    Report on the status of renewable energy, regional initiatives, and priorities including timeline (86 pages)
  7. The Energy and Air Pollution Challenge
    Trends in global energy use; air pollutants associated with fossil fuels; indoor air pollution; call for renewable energy (4 pages)
  8. Energy, Finance, and Climate Change
    Various perspectives on energy sources and their relationships with poverty and development (30 pages)
  9. World Energy Assessment
    Detailed report on energy trends worldwide (500 pages)
  10. Toolkit for Energy Entrepreneurs
    Detailed guide to planning an energy development project (126 pages)
  11. Energy Support Activities in Africa
    Basic information and web links on various renewable energy and energy policy initiatives in Africa (3 pages)

Assignment Questions

  1. Interconnections: Energy, Forests, & Health: In Sub-Saharan Africa, 90% of rural households are dependent on woodfuel (firewood and charcoal) for their primary energy source. Summarize some of the disadvantages—for both human wellbeing and the environment—associated with the use of woodfuel.
  2. Energy: Summarize the availability of renewable and non-renewable energy sources in Africa.