OECD/IEA   |   2006
Type: Research Report
Topic: Adoption, Monitoring and Evaluation
Country: Global
In developing countries, especially in rural areas, 2.5 billion people rely on biomass, such as fuelwood, charcoal, agricultural waste and animal dung, to meet their energy needs for cooking. In many countries, these resources account for over 90% of household energy consumption. In the absence of new policies, the number of people relying on biomass will increase to over 2.6 billion by 2015 and to 2.7 billion by 2030 because of population growth. That is, one-third of the world’s population will still be relying on these fuels. There is evidence that, in areas where local prices have adjusted to recent high international energy prices, the shift to cleaner, more efficient use of energy for cooking has actually slowed and even reversed. Use of biomass is not in itself a cause for concern. However, when resources are harvested unsustainably and energy conversion technologies are inefficient, there are serious adverse consequences for health, the environment and economic development. About 1.3 million people – mostly women and children – die prematurely every year because of exposure to indoor air pollution from biomass. Valuable time and effort is devoted to fuel collection instead of education or income generation. Environmental damage can also result, such as land degradation and regional air pollution. Two complementary approaches can improve this situation: promoting more efficient and sustainable use of traditional biomass; and encouraging people to switch to modern cooking fuels and technologies. The appropriate mix depends on local circumstances such as per-capita incomes and the availability of a sustainable biomass supply. Halving the number of households using traditional biomass for cooking by 2015 – a recommendation of the United Nations Millennium Project – would involve 1.3 billion people switching to other fuels. Alternative fuels and technologies are already available at reasonable cost. Providing LPG stoves and cylinders, for example, would cost at most $1.5 billion per year to 2015. Switching to oil-based fuels would not have a significant impact on world oil demand. Even when fuel costs and emissions are considered, the household energy choices of developing countries need not be limited by economic, climate-change or energy-security concerns.