The key constraint in the planning and management of household energy conservation in the developing countries is lack of information. The decision-making process needs an interdisciplinary approach to incorporate the technical, economic and social aspects of household energy, while establishing an appropriate energy-conservation programme. Especially in rural areas, emphasis should be placed on South-South cooperation, since many years of effort in developing countries have already been invested in training and implementing projects of these kinds and the experience gained should be transferred across borders and continents.
Fuelwood is still the main energy source in rural households. Dwindling fuelwood resources in many developing countries are both causing hardship to rural populations and contributing to damaging effects on the environment. In addition to improved efficiency of fuelwood combustion, it is recommended that fuel-substitution measures be adopted to reduce the role of fuelwood in favour of other fuels, such as LPG, kerosene and coal, as well as solar and wind energy schemes and, above all, electrification. It is further recommended that reforestation be a priority policy in developing countries.
A variety of processes are available for production of charcoal, with widely varying (25-70%) conversion efficiencies. The use of highly inefficient processes should be monitored, with a view to reducing their role in energy supply. At the same time, more efficient charcoal production and consumption technologies must be promoted and proper forestry management employed to mitigate the harmful environmental effects of fuelwood harvesting.
Much of the electricity consumption growth in developing countries, primarily in urban areas, is due to the increased use of household appliances. It is recommended that strategies be adopted to incorporate modern, energy-efficient technologies in household appliances, which are not likely to cost the consumer appreciably more.
Energy conservation in the housing and building sector can be improved through the adoption of appropriate building standards and codes that will help promote the use of suitable insulation, better structural design, more efficient air-conditioning, and similar features.
In the 1970s, Canada was a leader in research into highly energy-efficient homes, such as the Saskatchewan Conservation House. This research eventually led to the development of Canada's R-2000 Home Program, a government/industry collaboration recognized for leading edge design of energy efficient and environmentally sensitive residential construction. R-2000 homes feature: continuous ventilation systems; environmentally friendly materials and equipment; advanced heating and cooling systems; and energy efficient appliances, lighting, windows and doors. The benefits of an R-2000 home include: better air quality, less noise and dust, fewer drafts and cold sports and lower energy bills. The impact of the programme has been limited; only a small percentage of new Canadian homes qualify as R-2000 homes.
Despite advances in technology that have made many home appliances far more energy efficient, the amount of energy that the average American requires at home has changed little since the early 1970s. Residences account for about 22 percent of all the energy used in the country, a total that includes both electricity use and fuels burned for home heating such as oil, natural gas and coal. Since the late 1970s, U.S. government statistics show the use of heating fuels declining and electricity use edging up: In 1978, electricity counted for about 23 percent of an average household's energy use; in 2005, the number was 42 percent.