Despite the importance of wood energy, the need for planning for wood energy is generally not recognized by decision-makers from the energy, forestry and other sectors. National energy planning concentrates on conventional fuels like electricity and oil products, and forestry planning focuses on the supply of commercial wood and the conservation of protected areas. Woodfuels are an important energy source, particularly for the rural poor, and woodfuel use relates to public sector interests such as environment, public health, rural development, employment and even foreign exchange. Therefore, governments should be involved in wood energy planning. Direct effects of neglecting wood energy in energy and forestry planning can be scarcities for weaker groups, over-exploitation of natural resources and ineffective government interventions.
In energy planning, we can distinguish between project planning on the one hand, and macro-level (or national) planning on the other hand. Project planning focuses on one or more specific aspects, while macro-level planning is less detailed, but covers a longer time span and considers more sectors and processes. In the following planning refers to macro-level planning.
Past wood energy interventions mainly occurred at project level, e.g. in community forestry and improved cookstoves programs. In most Asian countries, wood energy analysis and planning at macro-level is not conducted for formulating national policies. Wood energy interventions are generally implemented ad-hoc, and they are largely based on misconceptions, e.g. woodfuel use is phasing out, all woodfuels come from forests, woodfuel use leads to deforestation, and wood energy problems are the same everywhere.
Planning of (wood) energy basically means matching demand and supply. Interventions can be demand oriented, supply oriented or a combination of both. Energy planning is not a one-time exercise, but a continuous and iterative process. Results are continuously reviewed and new information leads to new analyses. Steps in the planning process are data base development, demand analysis, supply analysis, supply-demand balancing, the assessment of economic, social and environmental impacts, and policy analysis. Often, computer models are used during the analysis.
Wood energy planning requires data both on wood energy consumption, e.g. patterns of household and industrial energy use, and wood supply, i.e. wood resources, their productivity and accessibility, and patterns of woodfuel distribution. The lack of data on wood energy is often mentioned as constraint for conducting wood energy planning. Data on wood energy consumption and production are not collected systematically, and other relevant data (e.g. socio-economic data) are scattered over various agencies. However, for indicative planning data don't need to be very detailed, and since planning is a continuous process a wood energy data base can be developed over time.
As a comparison, for conventional fuels actually only detailed supply data are available, while for consumption only the total volume is known, without much detail about what it is used for and by whom. Still, planning for these fuels is conducted, based on projections for total consumption that are based on past trends. Generally, data on total wood energy consumption are available, but supply data are mostly lacking. As long as information on present and future woodfuel supplies is unavailable, obtaining more detailed consumption data to fine-tune demand forecasts remains largely an academic exercise.
Wood energy planning should be part of national energy planning and other sectoral planning activities such as forestry and agriculture, because government interventions in energy, like resource management, prices and subsidies, are directly related to wood energy. Because of the site-specific nature of wood energy, planning should also be conducted at decentralized level, and be integrated with other decentralized planning activities such as rural development.
Wood energy links to several socio-economic sectors such as energy, forestry and agriculture. Therefore, wood energy planning requires the development of capabilities of related institutions. It also requires the cooperation between these agencies for the planning to be effective. At present these capabilities are still limited in Asian countries and cooperation is not yet adequate. At high level, decision-makers often lack understanding of wood energy situations. At technical level, approaches commonly applied for energy planning, such as relating energy consumption to macro-economic factors like GDP and population are inappropriate for wood energy, leading to inappropriate and ineffective policies and interventions.
In the past three years RWEDP has held three regional training courses on wood energy planning. These are currently being followed up by national training courses and case studies. Each case study is being conducted by the national energy agency in cooperation with other agencies at three levels: at national, provincial and district level. The case studies serve as on-the-job training on wood energy planning. Also a case study on area-based wood energy planning was conducted for a district in Thailand.
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© FAO-RWEDP, 1999