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World energy needs will double by 2050, and there is an urgent need for sources that don't produce carbon dioxide or other pollutants.

This editorial in Nature argues that 'micropower sources' – from gas turbines and sugar-cane biomass to nanoscale solar cells embedded in the bricks and slates of houses – have great potential in meeting this need. In fact, it argues, such technologies could allow the 2 billion people without electricity in the developing world to bypass or 'leapfrog' the need for national electricity grids entirely.

The ultimate micropower source is the fuel cell, which converts hydrogen to electricity without combustion or moving parts. It overcomes the main drawback of renewable energy sources, by offering a way to store electricity. Scientists, technologists, governments and philanthropists should do much more to hasten its arrival, it argues.

Link to full editorial in Nature

Reference: Nature 427, 661 (2004)