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Assessment of Domestic Energy Needs and Resources

Nations differ in their energy needs as well as their resource potential for bio- and other types of energy. Thus, the assessment of the current and projected energy situation, both in terms of demand, energy uses and different energy sources, is a precondition to ensure the most efficient use of available resources and ensure that will also tie into objectives.

It is important to recognize that reliance on a mix of diverse energy sources and an overall increase in energy efficiency is an important feature of a sustainable energy system that supports the emergence of a green economy 2 . The mix in each given context will vary according to preconditions and needs. Hence, it is critical to assess the potential for a variety of renewable energy options in a resource assess-ment, including wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, biomass, etc.

Energy solutions need to match the energy needs. An assessment of domestic energy needs provides both an insight into existing energy use and “suppressed energy needs”, or energy that individuals would use if they had access to it. An energy needs assessment could supply a country with an aggregate needs projection for the whole country, or for specific population groups, and solutions for supplying energy. For example, if a country faces difficulties in providing electricity to widely dispersed rural populations beyond the conventional grid network, decentralized generation options may be more efficient than grid connections. In this context, the use of locally produced biofuels to power electric generators on mini-grids may be a sustainable alternative to central grid extension. The assessment would shed light on potential end uses and related pathway choices. For example, if a country requires fuel to run generators in small remote villages, the route of straight vegetable oil may receive priority over biodiesel which would require a set up of larger production plants. Finally, the assessment would also encompass the identification of outdated technolo-gies and ways to increase overall energy efficiency and demand – with the remembrance that the cleanest energy

is energy saved. In the case of transport, whose overall contribution to climate change is on the rise, the use of biofuels should not do away with efforts to reduce the need for transport and the promotion of most efficient means of transport.

Resource effciency should guide decision making. This applies to decisions on two levels: (1) whether or not, or to what extent, to pursue a bioenergy route; and (2) how to develop efficiency gains within the chosen bioenergy route. For example, mineral based solar energy systems transform solar energy more efficiently into energy, and also require less land and pose potentially less environmental impacts 3 . On the other hand, solar energy is still subject to a cost disadvantage. Furthermore, it is important to look not only at the physical resource base, but to consider and utilize local knowledge in a way that enhances the absorption of the chosen technology and the chances of success. Taking a bioenergy route, for example, natural resource availability needs to be assessed. For example, biofuel production should be subject to increased scrutiny in water stressed areas. However, resource efficiency potentials can be realized in the form of integrated systems where bioenergy feed-stocks and production is maximized with other uses. For example, integrated systems that produce more than one product from the same feedstock, such as combined heat and power (CHP) from incineration of biomass; or sugar, ethanol, electricity and fertilizer from sugar cane; or ethanol and animal feed from maize can be an efficient form of biomass utilization. Utilizing by-products in this way also increases the economic competitiveness of the system. Cascading use of food-energy systems (i.e. Integrated Food-Energy Systems/IFES) is another way of achieving multiple objectives by maximizing food and energy outputs while minimizing waste and negative environmental impacts by transforming by-products of food production into feedstock for energy.

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