Energy For Cooking In Developing Countries, World Energy Outlook 2006
In developing countries, especially in rural areas, 2.6 billion people rely on
biomass, such as fuelwood, charcoal, agricultural waste and animal dung,
to meet their energy needs for cooking. In many countries, these resources
account for over 90% of household energy consumption.
In the absence of new policies, the number of people relying on biomass
will increase to over 2.6 billion by 2015 and to 2.7 billion by 2030 because
of population growth. That is, one-third of the world’s population will still
be relying on these fuels. There is evidence that, in areas where local prices
have adjusted to recent high international energy prices, the shift to cleaner,
more efficient use of energy for cooking has actually slowed and even
Use of biomass is not in itself a cause for concern. However, when resources
are harvested unsustainably and energy conversion technologies are
inefficient, there are serious adverse consequences for health, the
environment and economic development. About 1.3 million people –
mostly women and children – die prematurely every year because of
exposure to indoor air pollution from biomass. Valuable time and effort is
devoted to fuel collection instead of education or income generation.
Environmental damage can also result, such as land degradation and
regional air pollution.
Two complementary approaches can improve this situation: promoting
more efficient and sustainable use of traditional biomass; and encouraging
people to switch to modern cooking fuels and technologies. The
appropriate mix depends on local circumstances such as per-capita incomes
and the availability of a sustainable biomass supply.
Halving the number of households using traditional biomass for cooking
by 2015 – a recommendation of the United Nations Millennium Project
– would involve 1.3 billion people switching to other fuels. Alternative
fuels and technologies are already available at reasonable cost. Providing
LPG stoves and cylinders, for example, would cost at most $1.5 billion per
year to 2015. Switching to oil-based fuels would not have a significant
impact on world oil demand. Even when fuel costs and emissions are
considered, the household energy choices of developing countries need not
be limited by economic, climate-change or energy-security concerns.