The possibility of generating electricity with microbial fuel cells has been recognized for some time, but practical applications have been slow to develop. The recent development of a microbial fuel cell that can harvest electricity from the organic matter stored in marine sediments has demonstrated the feasibility of producing useful amounts of electricity in remote environments. Further study of these systems has led to the discovery of microorganisms that conserve energy to support their growth by completely oxidizing organic compounds to carbon dioxide with direct electron transfer to electrodes. This suggests that self-sustaining microbial fuel cells that can effectively convert a diverse range of waste organic matter or renewable biomass to electricity are feasible. Significant progress has recently been made to increase the power output of systems designed to convert organic wastes to electricity, but substantial additional optimization will be required for large-scale electricity production.