E. R&D and technology transfer
The tools of science and technology, particularly biotechnology, offer great opportunities for modernizing bioenergy production and end use.
However, as shown by, e.g., the KCJ case study, translating basic research discoveries into commercial applications and social benefits requires a complex set of interactions involving many types of people and institutions, which unfortunately many developing countries lack (NRC, 1987). A great deal of local and foreign investment in renewable energy development in many countries, as shown by the Malawi Charcoal Project case study, has been concentrated in the public sector without sufficient attention to the application of research and development results in the market place. Thus much of the research has created little commercial interest which is important if the bioenergy industry is to become successful.
Almost total neglect has left plant biomass R & D in a very poor condition compared with agricultural and even forestry research. The government funding for renewable energy R. D & D in the IEA Member countries in 1989 was only $489 million compared with about $3.5 billion for nuclear fission (OECD, 1987; OECD 1990; Flavin and Lenssen, 1990). In the United States, R & D expenditure on biomass fell from about $70 million in 1981 to an estimated $9 million in 1990 (at 1990 prices) (Racer et al, 1989). Despite some increased research on biomass over the past decade (compared with other renewable energies), this has not yet resulted in the actual introduction of much new technology for the conversion of biomass into energy; furthermore, the R & D effort still lags far behind the practical requirements. Thus R. D & D will have to be extensively supported to increase productivity and efficiencies of use in all areas in parallel with training and the build-up of infrastructure on a long-term basis.
The major technological challenges faced by biomass fuels include: (a) to reliably produce and deliver large quantities of biomass to conversion facilities (e.g.,1000-2000 t/day of biomass daily from within a range of 80 km) at a cost of between $1.50 and $2.00/GJ; (b) large increases in bioproductivity and conversion efficiency using less energy and capital (e.g., to produce 270 litres of gasoline-equivalent per tons of dry matter, i.e., twice the current levels, at a total cost of about $0.26 to $0.32/1); and (c) to increase efficiency in harvesting, handling, and storage of biomass (Hall and Rosillo-Calle, 1991).
Technology transfer has been widely advocated in the past as the best way for developing countries to obtain access to new technologies (Hoffman and McNelis, 1986). It should be regarded as an important component in speeding up the process of modernization of bioenergy. As shown by the case studies on ethanol distillation plants, biogas, charcoal production, improved stoves and gasifiers, the technologies are often universally available so that technology transfer to optimize production and conversion can be quite easy given the appropriate institutional structure and financial incentives - especially in comparison with fossil fuels. Indeed a number of developing countries could adapt and improve the technologies for these so-called modem biofuels. However, technology transfer is a complex process and must be adapted to the prevailing socioeconomic conditions if it is to succeed. This point has been clearly proved by the KCJ case study, where a Thai technology was modified and widely disseminated in Nairobi, Kenya, because of the strong involvement of various sectors, government, NGOs, the informal sector and local entrepreneurs.
Technological constraints have often limited propagation of the biomass-energy technologies since their cost and performance deficiencies fare poorly in comparison with more commercial alternatives. The USDOE (1990, p. 15) have identified the following technical constraints: "resource access, conversion efficiency, lifetime and reliability, market compatibility and manufacturability. They also usually involve limits to scientific knowledge, unsolved engineering problems, unavailability of required materials or production techniques, maintenance difficulties etc. (USDOE, 1990). Lack of contacts and cooperation between scientists in the developing world and entrepreneurs, sometimes exaggerated claims by scientists and enthusiasts alike which did not stand up to scrutiny and resulted in loss of credibility etc., have often been major obstacles to more rapid introduction of alternative energy technologies. Testing unproven technologies in remote rural areas often leads to failure of the project which then creates prejudices against the technology (as shown in the South Pacific study).
The most important obstacles to technology transfer, however, are the lack of trained personnel, lack of understanding of local circumstances, and the absence of an extensive basic scientific and technical support structures - with the interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary collaboration which is required for modernizing bioenergy. This is clearly demonstrated in chapter I. Training and extension services are vital for the success of technology transfer. Also, information on the technology must be available in a form suitable to the end-user, and the technology must be seen to be reliable. The training of human resources is therefore paramount and should be oriented toward supporting locallybased applications engineering and development. Most of the renewable energy technologies have been developed in the industrialized countries and many of those are too expensive for widespread use in developing countries (Hoffman and NcNelis, 1986) unless they are adapted to local manufacture and maintenance as with over 500 sugarcane alcohol fermentation and distillation plants manufactured in Brazil since the late 1970s. R & D must take into account local, environmental and socioeconomic conditions in order to really produce "bioenergy technologies for development".
Technically simple projects do not always receive the greatest priority in many developing countries. Often, it is scientists with extensive credentials, and who follow developed countries models, who tend to influence planners and dominate funding, while often accomplishing little that is applicable to the needs of the great majority of the people. As shown in this report, technology should not only be readily transferable, but also flexible. Indigenous technology may well prove a fertile startingpoint for many innovative activities. Many technological innovations in the rural sector owe much to the creativity, ingenuity and skill, not necessarily of research scientists, but of local farmers, artisans and entrepreneurs.
The Chinese Government, for example, has been supportive of technology transfer. Official policy has been to push research institutes into pursuing practical engineering problems, e.g., biogas technology is supported by a large and long-standing R & D programme. There are over 100 scientific research institutes in China carrying out biogas-related research, and more than 50 experimental stations have been created to develop new techniques, standardize procedures and train technicians in biogas technologies. The actual involvement of the industry and local entrepreneurs in biogas dissemination is difficult to gauge because of the given, but changing socioeconomic pattern in China. However, in general, the result has been several major improvements in renewable energy systems, construction materials etc.
India also has developed institutional mechanisms for strengthening the technology-transfer system of biomass energy technologies. Some of these mechanisms include the setting up of state agencies to support entrepreneurs, market support, sponsoring R. D & D projects, the creation of biomass-related programmes such as the National Biogas and Improved Chullah Programmes, and the establishment of biomass research centres. Saxena and Vasudevan (1991) conclude that although these efforts have met with some success, most biomassenergy technologies have not yet reached a stage where market forces alone can make the adoption of these technologies possible. A successful instrument in transferring such biomass technologies appears to have been the creation of an artisan network in rural areas to train youths in the operation and maintenance of these technologies.