Only 25% of the African population has access to clean fuels and energy for cooking, according to a recent study by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the African Union. The paper also proposes strategies to accelerate the transition to renewable energy sources.
Officials and experts from the governments of Ethiopia and Kenya benefited from a UNEP qualification project, carried out in partnership with the International Climate Initiative. The project provides technical assistance to assess the sustainability of the bioenergy sectors and build capacity for periodic long-term monitoring.
24 indicators will be used to assess the environmental, social and economic impacts of bioenergy production and use. The results of these indicators will be used to facilitate the decision-making process.
“These findings help improve our knowledge and a general understanding of Ethiopia’s bioenergy sector and serve as a starting point for enhancing the sustainability of this sector and supporting effective sustainable bioenergy policies as part of low carbon development strategies,” said Fikadu Beyene, Commissioner for Environment, Forests and Climate Change in Ethiopia.
99 million people in Ethiopia make use of biomass for cooking. Access to modern energy, poverty reduction and improved health are some of the potential benefits that biogas and other alternatives to biomass can bring.
In Kenya, the project has helped to assess the current and future potential of the bioenergy sector in two respects: the use of sugarcane bagasse waste by the tea industry and the charcoal production of forests, woodlands and agricultural land for domestic use. The tea industry consumes almost 1 million tons of firewood per year or more than 4% of the volume of firewood consumed annually in Kenya. “The project results provide a better understanding of the environmental, social and economic impact of bioenergy use and assist in the sustainable management of this important national resource,” said Charles Mutai, director of the Climate Change Directory of the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
Kenya’s energy consumption is dominated by biomass, followed by oil and oil products, geothermal and other renewable energies, according to Kenyan government data. Biomass supplies over 90% of the energy needs of rural households in the country and over 43 million people depend on traditional use of biomass for cooking in the country.
Harm to health
4 million people die each year from pollution caused by the use of fuelwood in their homes, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). This helps to justify the development of safer and more efficient energy alternatives.