Cover Image
close this bookBoiling Point No. 43 - Fuel Options for Household Energy (ITDG - ITDG, 1999, 44 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentTechnical Enquiries to ITDG
View the documentBack Issues of Boiling Point
View the documentEditorial and Production Team
View the documentContributions to Boiling Point
View the documentHousehold energy - Choices for the new Millennium
View the documentFuel options for household energy in Northwest Bengal, India
View the documentThe Fulgora sawdust burning stove
View the documentA compressing machine for briquetting biomass waste into usable fuel
View the documentThe Haybox for energy conservation
View the documentKerosene as a cooking fuel: What are the prospects?
View the documentSmall wind generators - Their impact on people
View the documentSmall wind generators for battery charging in Peru and Sri Lanka
View the documentGTZ pages
View the documentIndonesian sun-cooking: A social perspective
View the documentSolar Photovoltaics (PV) - A successful renewable energy
View the documentA new clean household fuel for developing countries
View the documentImproved cooking stove for charcoal and briquettes
View the documentImproved cooking stoves for rural and tribal families
View the documentField research programme on energy technology, health, and the environment
View the documentUrban household energy and food preparation in Nigeria
View the documentCase studies from Boiling Point impact study
View the documentPublications and CD-Rom
View the documentWhat's happening in household energy?
View the documentLetters to the editor
View the documentITDG energy news
View the documentBack Cover

Household energy - Choices for the new Millennium

by Elizabeth Bates, ITDG, Schumacher Centre for Technology & Development, Bourton on Dunsmore, Rugby, CV23 9QZ, UK. E-mail <>


Energies domestiques: choix pour le prochain millire

Il y a une apparente contradiction entre pays en voie de dloppement et pays industrialises dans les modes de dloppement de l'rgie domestique. Alors que ceux qui utilisent le foyer trois pierres sont en train de considr les rgies fossiles pour rire les ssions de fumdans les cuisines, le monde industrialise est en train de considr les rgies renouvelables. Le mnisme de dloppement propre pourrait e un moyen afin de rire les ssions de gaz qui sont dommageables pour la sant

Priorities for household energy in the developing world

For countless thousands of people, household fuel will inevitably mean biomass residues or dung, as there is nothing else available. Even where these fuels are used, people will find ways of making them more efficient or convenient (see cover photo). Where biomass residues are used, they can be either burnt directly, converted to briquettes, or else converted to biogas - a technology that is becoming increasingly important for 'wet' residues.

As wood becomes scarce, initiatives for producing it renewably take on a new importance. Gebrehiwot (1) and Carneiro de Miranda (2) describe very different ways in which fuelwood can be produced commercially. Another effect of wood scarcity is that, especially in urban areas, other fuels are becoming more competitive. The articles by Khennas and Stokes et al (this edition) describe factors that inhibit the growth of liquid fuels use.

Then there are the 'clean', small-scale technologies, where no greenhouse gases are emitted. Apart from solar cookers, (see the article by D'Sena, this edition), solar and wind power are usually used for lighting, radio, TV and other low-energy uses. Two case studies (Hammonds, this issue) describe situations where the rapidly decreasing cost of photovoltaics has been put to good use. Papers by Scott and Dunnett (this edition) show that wind power too, is becoming more popular.

Reconciling the needs of the industrialized and the developing world

In 1997, international governments drew up the Kyoto Protocol, which looked at the effect of environmental pollution on climate change. One of the most controversial parts of this agreement allowed rich countries to pay for reductions in pollution in poorer countries. The richer countries would then share part of the 'credits' gained by this pollution reduction.

To many developing countries, the question posed was 'Why should we try to reduce our pollution levels whilst rich countries continue to pour out toxic emissions from their industries?' Although the justice of this question is clear, a more positive one is, 'Are there any immediate benefits for us if we choose to adopt this clean development mechanism?' Improved air quality is one obvious benefit, and if this improvement can be focused on household emissions, then a reduction in illnesses caused by smoke can be expected to follow.

Every time fuel is burned, it emits the greenhouse gases (GHG) which are the main targets of the Kyoto Agreement. However, burning fuel also emits health damaging pollutants (HDPs), and it is a reduction in these that will provide immediate health benefits.

Health benefits from reducing HDP emissions in people's houses are much greater than those achieved by reducing the same amount of emissions away from the home, such as from power plants (3). Since people's health will be affected proportionately, it can be argued that the cost of having people in poor health should also be 'costed' in terms of the number of days in which people are off work etc.

The health benefits from some of these technology changes would benefit the country in which the interventions took place, as well as achieving the global benefits of greenhouse gas reduction. However, it essential that the choice of technology is the right one; otherwise only the global warming problem will be addressed.


1. Gebrehiwot, A. 'Fuelwood as a source of urban household energy in Ethiopia; a supply perspective' Boiling Point 39, 1997

2. Carneiro de Miranda, R 'Deforestation and forest degradation by commercial harvesting for firewood and charcoal in the Pacific region of Nicaragua' Boiling Point 42, 1999

3. Wang, X. and Smith, K. Secondary Benefits of Greenhouse Gas Control: Health Impacts in China, Environmental Science and Technology, 33/18,1999