Owing to the growing demand for low-cost 'networkable' sensors in conjunction with recent developments of micro-electro mechanical system (MEMS) and radio frequency (RF) technology, new sensors come with advanced functionalities for processing and communication. Since these nodes are normally very small and powered with irreplaceable batteries, efficient use of energy is paramount and one of the most challenging tasks in designing wireless sensor networks (WSN). A new energy-aware WSN routing protocol, reliable and energy efficient protocol (REEP), which is proposed, makes sensor nodes establish more reliable and energy-efficient paths for data transmission. The performance of REEP has been evaluated under different scenarios, and has been found to be superior to the popular data-centric routing protocol, directed-diffusion (DD) (discussed by Intanagonwiwat et al. in 'Directed diffusion for wireless sensor networking' IEEE/ACM Trans. Netw., 2003, 11(1), pp. 2-16), used as the benchmark.