The massive increases in fuel prices over the last years have however, made any scheme not requiring fuel appear to be more attractive and to be worth reinvestigation. In considering the atmosphere and the oceans as energy sources, the four main contenders are wind power, wave power, tidal and power from ocean thermal gradients. The renewable energy resources are particularly suited for the provision of rural power supplies and a major advantage is that equipment such as flat plate solar driers, wind machines, etc., can be constructed using local resources and without the advantage results from the feasibility of local maintenance and the general encouragement such local manufacture gives to the build up of small scale rural based industry. The key factors to reducing and controlling CO2, which is the major contributor to global warming, are the use of alternative approaches to energy generation and the exploration of how these alternatives are used today and may be used in the future as green energy sources. Even with modest assumptions about the availability of land, comprehensive fuel-wood farming programmes offer significant energy, economic and environmental benefits. These benefits would be dispersed in rural areas where they are greatly needed and can serve as linkages for further rural economic development. Self-renewing resources such as wind, sun, plants and heat from the earth can provide clean abundant energy through the development of renewable technologies. Virtually all regions of the world have renewable resources of one type or another. Research and development investments in the past 25 years in renewable technologies development has lead to important advances in performance and resulting cost effectiveness. Renewable resources currently account for about 9%-10% of the energy consumed in the world; most of this is from hydropower and traditional biomass sources. Wind, solar, biomass and geothermal technologies are cost effective today in an increasing number of markets and are making important steps to broader commercialisation. The present situation is best characterised as one of very rapid growth for wind and solar technologies and of significant promise for biomass and geothermal technologies. Each of the renewable energy technologies is in a different stage of research, development and commercialisation and all have differences in current and future expected costs, current industrial base, resource availability and potential impact on energy supply. This article discusses the potential for such integrated systems in the stationary and portable power market in response to the critical need for a cleaner energy technology. Anticipated patterns of future energy use and consequent environmental impacts (acid precipitation, ozone depletion and the greenhouse effect or global warming) are comprehensively discussed in this paper. Throughout the theme, several issues relating to renewable energies, environment and sustainable development are examined from both current and future perspectives.
Key words: Energy, renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency, environment, sustainable development, global warming, emissions.
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