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close this bookSustainable Energy News - No. 11 November 1995 (INFORSE, 1995)
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Energy in Burkina Faso, 90% Renewable But...

By Godefroy Thiombiano, APER Boukrina Faso

Burkina Faso is part of the Sahel area south of the Sahara dessert. It has a surface of 275,000 km2, a population of 10.5 million, and a gross national product of 300 US$/year (12% of the European average). The final energy consumption is 1.3 MWh/capita/year, (Approx. 7 % of world average) of which 90% comes from wood and other biomass resources, 8% from imported oil and 2% from electricity. The potential for renewable energy consists of biomass, direct solar energy (3-5 times as much incoming solar energy per m as in Europe), and some hydro-power resources.

Energy Policy

In a situation with diminishing firewood resources and an oil bill equivalent to 25% of export earnings, the various official development plans make energy an everyday concern, with the following aims:

· eradication of desertification by reducing wood consumption via rational use of wood energy;
· reduction of oil costs by diversifying supply to more suppliers.

Rational Use of Biomass

To improve the efficiency of wood combustion, improved cookstoves are disseminated that use wood and charcoal as well as other alternative fuels, such as oil, butane gas, and alcohol. The models that bum wood and charcoal are of a design that is three to four times more efficient than the traditional fireplaces, which are constructed of three stones.

Between 1980 and 1990, 20,000 improved stoves were disseminated annually, mainly in the rural areas. The types designed for rural areas were made of clay and built by the users. For urban areas, metallic stoves (known as Ouaga Metallic, Burkina Mixte, and others) and ceramic ones were used. They were disseminated with the help of artisans' organizations.

It must be noted that there is a lack of awareness of the need for efficient energy use. The different evaluations show considerable variation in the acceptance of the technologies, especially in rural areas.

On average, 2,O00 ha of forests is saved per year due to the wood conservation effort.

Solar Energy

The direct use of solar energy is just beginning, and does not contribute significantly to the energy balance of the country. A number of technologies are applied to use this resource for, e.g., water heating, communication, light, food processing, conservation of medicine. The following applications illustrate these uses:

· dissemination of systems for water heating. This is a mature technology with local production of systems although the materials are imported.

· dissemination of solar driers. This is also a mature technology, fulfilling a real need. The systems are produced locally, and the dissemination is made easier by acceptance fuelled by existing habits of drying certain products as well as by the market for dried products.

· installation of systems for rural electrification.

In spite of the interest, a larger dissemination of solar energy will not take place before certain measures are in place:

· an inspection/certification of the different available systems and an evaluation of their impacts;
· a reduction of import duties on solar energy systems and components.

Electric Energy

More than 95% of the electricity is produced and distributed by SONABEL, the national electric utility of Burkina Faso. The production is mainly done by power stations fuelled with heavy oil (78%); the remainder is from hydro-power. The main consumer is the state, which buys almost 2/3 of the production, mainly for air-conditioning, indoor- and street-lighting.

Efforts are made to raise the awareness of the need for more rational use of electricity by developing better user habits and by using better equipment. Energy audits of the 10 largest consumers showed potentials for saving 20-50% of their electricity bills.


Even though the state of Burkina Faso has made an effort to support energy research, it is necessary that future programs be supported by bilateral and multilateral cooperation. The IBE (Institut Bukinabe de l'Energie) should play a number of roles in programmes to tailor technologies to small users, to disseminate research results to artisans, and to contribute engineering expertise.

It is also time to start new mechanisms that can make research and development results available to the public. A unit for support for and collaboration with local organizations would help to disseminate such results to the community, facilitating cooperation between researchers and the general public.

Translated, edited and shortened by the editors.

APER - Association pour la Promotion des Energies Renouvelables is under establishment with the aim of bridging the gap between the specialised institutions and the general public within the field of sustainable energy use. APER plans to create a file of persons from all over the world that will share their ideas and develop cooperation.

More Info: Godefroy Thiombiano, APERBl.4461 OuagadougouOl, Burkina Faso. Ph/fax +226-3670~9R9.