Renewable energy in the food sector
Renewable energy can be used throughout the food sector either directly to provide energy on-site or indirectly by integrating this energy into the existing conventional energy supply system. Renewable energy sources tend to be widely dispersed throughout rural areas. The availability of a reliable and affordable energy supply can become an essential component for sustainable development.
Reducing the dependence of food systems on fossil fuels by using renewable energy is feasible for farm and aquaculture production. Renewable energy can also be used for transporting raw food feedstocks, processing food, distributing finished products and cooking. In low-GDP countries, renewable energy also presents opportunities to provide much needed basic energy services.
Adequate supply of energy in the immediate post-harvest stages is important for reducing food losses in low-GDP countries. Because of this, significant attention has been given to the possibility of using renewable energy in these countries to deal with this issue. For instance, solar energy and biomass have been successfully used for both dry and cold storage.
In locations where good renewable energy resources exist, farmers, fishermen and food processing businesses have also opportunities to generate wind power, solar power, micro-hydro-power. Solar thermal, biomass and geothermal resources generated from decentralized facilities can be used for both heating and cooling.
Animal waste, crop and forest residues, by-products from food processing , food waste from retailers, households and restaurants are examples of biomass originating from different stages of the food supply chain. These biomass resources are flexible energy resources. They can be:
As more knowledge and experience is gained, the costs for renewable energy technologies are likely to continue to decline. In many specific situations, renewable energy is already economically competitive. For example, in remote rural areas without access to the electricity grid, autonomous renewable energy systems are competitive as they allow users to avoid the high expenses involved in connecting to the grid.