Many environmental problems confronting mankind at present is connected one way or the other, to the extraction, conversion, transformation or use of the energy. This is the reason why a through understanding of energy and environment is a prerequisite for planning and implementing sustainable energy program. Therefore, the role of energy is to be understood from both soci-economic and environmental perspectives. Sustainable energy technology is the one, which brings about socio-economic and cultural development without compromising on environmental quality and future of natural resources. Energy planning process today emphasises on energy conservation as first the best option to arrest energy and related environmental problems immediately. Integrated approach to resource management is suggested in planning process in order to attain the goal of sustainable development.
Since the initiation of human civilization on this planet man is dependent on different kinds of energies for his basic survival as well as economic development. In beginning, need was limited to biological energy in the form of food, which extended to wood when use of fire was discovered, then to fossil fuels which made industrial revolution of early eighteenth century possible. Industrialization and urbanization together promoted transportation that was very energy intensive sector and used mainly fossilized fuels in the form of oils. When man learnt to make life more comfortable, his wants and technological inventions made way for newer materialistic culture, which was very energy hungry. This culture created tremendous pressure on natural resources and existing sources of energy, which allowed newer and cleaner energy sources to sprawl. Only rich world could afford to depend on costly cleaner fuels like electricity or gaseous fuels, but poor world had to depend on unhygienic energy sources like firewood, dung-cakes and agricultural residue etc.
With passage of time, increased standard of living and burgeoning population growth has increased energy consumption rapaciously, which created tremendous pressure on forests. As a result many forests all over the world were degraded, many economies were stand still and entire ecological balance of the planet earth was disturbed. This situation provoked scientist community all over the globe to find way for energy crisis and solve environmental conflict in sustainable manner. As a result, many newer and cleaner non-conventional energy technologies were developed - technologies to extract energy from biomass (biogas, biogassifiers) solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, tidal, etc. The success of these new technologies was mainly influenced by the cost of the fuel and environmental considerations. Of the many newer technologies, solar energy technology is promising and its use can be limited only due to economic and commercial viability. The progress in wind power generation has earned India recognition as a “World Superpower” in the state of the world 1998 Report of the Worldwatch Institute. According to mid-80s estimates the wind power potential of India is around 20,000 MW. The installed capacity of the grid quality power generation has reached 1,300 and the ninth plan aims at the addition of 3000 MW.12 This shows remarkable progress India made in wind power sector.
Domestic activities such as cooking and water heating are the major thrust areas where energy consumption in the form of bioresource is more in rural areas. Technological advancement, fortunately made way for cleaner energies such as biogas, electricity from biomass even in remote rural region. Of all renewable, non-conventional energy programs, biogas program in India is considered as a successful one, but only 10% of the available potential is harnessed so far. Our study in Kolar district shows that biogas can met 30%-40% of the total energy demand in rural area and solar energy can meet the electrical energy demand, if harnessed effectively.
Growing awareness and knowledge about energy technologies, positive attitude and technologically advanced skills can bring sustainability in all spheres of development. To channelise the goal of sustainability, monitoring the progress on the path is of first and foremost importance, which can be done by identifying criteria’s for sustainable development and then exploring indicators, if any to the identified criteria’s. This exercise will help formulate newer policies for sustainable development.