|Application of Biomass-energy Technologies (Habitat, 1993)|
The availability of energy and the security of its supply are of paramount importance to all human communities. Unfortunately, in most countries - both developed and developing current energy markets ignore the social and environmental costs and risks associated with fossil-fuel use. If externalities such as employment, import-substitution, energy security and environment are considered, then biomass systems compare very favourably with fossil-fuel systems.
Biomass currently accounts for about 14 per cent of the world's energy supply and is the most important source of energy for three quarters of the world's population living in developing countries. With increases in population and per capita demand, and depletion of fossil-fuel energy resources, the demand for biomass energy is expected to increase rapidly in developing countries. Even in developed countries, biomass is being increasingly used. For example, the United States of America now has 9000 MW of biomass power plants and Sweden, which derives 14 per cent of its energy from biomass has plans to increase it further as it phases down nuclear and fossil-fuel plants into the next century. With technologies available today, biomass can provide modem fuels such as electricity and liquid fuels, in addition to more traditional cooking fuels, and this energy can be produced and used in an environmentally sustainable manner, while emitting no net CO2.
Yet. biomass energy continues to receive the lowest priority in energy planning in developing countries. Many factors contribute to this: the unreliability of production and consumption statistics; the uncertainty of production costs which are quite site-specific; its diverse sources and end-uses; and its interaction with land uses.
Integrating biomass energy in national energy planning and policy-making on an equal footing with other energy sources will not be easy and will require concerted action at national and sub-national levels. A reliable information base will have to be developed on the supply and utilization of biomass energy in the country; the policy environment must be made responsive to the needs of the biomass-energy sector, research, development and engineering efforts will have to be stepped up in required areas; and the commercialization of biomass technologies will have to be promoted through selective and well-targeted subsidies and fiscal and other forms of incentives.
These are some of the recommendations of an Expert Group Meeting recently organized by UNCHS (Habitat) to promote commercialization of biomass technologies in developing countries. The present publication brings together, in an edited form, the contributions of several eminent experts commissioned by the Centre on different biomass-energy technologies. The publication forms a part of the Centre's continuing efforts to promote wide dissemination and commercialization of renewable energy technologies - an area of expressed concern in chapter 7 of Agenda 21 on sustainable human settlements development. I am confident that the case studies presented in this report and the policy options suggested in the light of these experiences will prove useful to policy-makers, researchers and potential entrepreneurs.
UNCHS (Habitat) acknowledges the contributions of Professor D.O. Hall, Dr. B.K. Kaale, Dr. S. Karekezi and Dr. N.K. Ravindranath in the preparation of this publication.
Elizabeth Dowdeswell Under-Secretary-General United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat)