Access to energy is one of the keys to development and economic growth, as it provides light and heat, and powers productive machinery and telecommunication equipment. Yet in spite of admirable accomplishments in providing energy for human purposes, it is increasingly
clear that current systems are unable to provide energy to all people in a sustainable and affordable way. It is estimated that 1.6 billion people (Flavin and Aeck, 2005; ITDG, 2004) do not have access to modern forms of energy, most of them living
in rural areas in developing countries, far from centralised energy systems. Fossil fuel‐based energy systems also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Hence recognition is growing that new patterns of energy supply and consumption are needed
to move towards more sustainable development.