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Wood Energy Users

Use by households - Use by industries and enterprises - Further reading - Other issues in wood energy

Wood energy is used by households, industries, commercial enterprises and institutions, mostly in rural areas but also in urban areas. With increasing rural population and the low probability of large shifts to conventional fuels, such as kerosene and LPG, wood energy consumption will continue to increase.

Woodfuels are mostly gathered for own use, but in many places, particularly in urban areas, fuelwood and charcoal have become traded goods. Woodfuels are bought by poor urban households and rural households of almost all income levels. Industries and enterprises also buy wood for their energy needs. Conversion of woodfuels is done mostly by using simple technologies, but woodfuels are increasingly being used for modern conversion processes, e.g. dendropower.

Use by Households

Patterns of household energy consumption are site-specific, i.e. they vary from country to country, and from area to area within countries. They are dependant on the type of area (e.g. rural or urban), availability of local resources and alternative fuels, climate, and they can vary by season. Still, some general observations can be made.
Most of the woodfuels are used for cooking, while water heating and space heating are other important applications in some areas. In some cases there is multiple use of devices and fuels, when the heat from cooking is used for warming the house and drying goods, and the fire provides light.
A relation exists between household size and the level of woodfuel consumption. Because of an economy of scale, the consumption per capita for large households is lower than for small households. Large households also have more labor available for fuelwood collection.
It is believed that in rural areas most woodfuels are collected for free, so consumption patterns are hardly affected by income levels. They are affected by the availability of woodfuels, other biomass fuels and conventional fuels, and the availability of labor to collect fuelwood. Woodfuels are mostly collected by women and children, so as long as women's labor is not valued fuelwood will remain cheaper than fossil fuels.
Fuel switching from woodfuels to other fuels can occur. Rising incomes can lead to increasing woodfuel consumption, but high-income urban households may switch to conventional fuels when these are available. Low-income households may switch to other biomass fuels such as crop residues and animal dung, when woodfuels supplies or labor to collect wood are short.
In urban areas, woodfuels compete with other traded energy sources. Here also, household cooking is the main end-use, but a large amount of woodfuel is used by small entrepreneurs, such as small restaurants and roadside food vendors. In the choice of fuel, not only fuel prices play a role, but also the price of devices, the convenience of use and taste aspects. Since urban users purchase woodfuels, they are sensitive to relative fuel prices so inter-fuel substitution can occur as their income changes.
Rural users generally use cookstoves of poorer quality than urban users. Rural stoves are mostly self-made from local material, and do not require financial expenditure. There are opportunities for woodfuel conservation by introducing more efficient stoves, but when fuelwood and devices are free goods, fuelwood saving is not always a concern for rural households. Besides their inefficiency, the use of traditional stoves can have serious health impacts, mainly due to smoke.

Use by Industries and Enterprises

Fuelwood, charcoal and other biomass fuels are used in enterprises such as brick making, lime production, textile processing, and food industries. When compared with the domestic sector, woodfuel use by industries and enterprises appears small but nonetheless significant. This sector accounts for about 10-15% of the total amount of energy consumed and about 10-30% of the total amount of wood and other biomass energy consumed.

Woodfuel using industries contribute significantly to the income generation and socio-economic development in rural areas. However, the processing technology and the energy conversion devices are generally poor and inefficient, which means that there is a large scope for energy conservation. In recent years woodfuels are increasingly used for modern applications.

The use of woodfuels and other biomass fuels by industries and enterprises depends on the price and supply reliability of these fuels relative to conventional fuels. Industries and enterprises will continue to use wood and biomass fuels as long as these fuels are competitive and their supply is secure.

Further reading:

Regional Study on Wood Energy Today and Tomorrow in Asia, Field Document 50
The People's Fuel, Wood Energy News 13.1
Review of Wood Energy Data in RWEDP Member Countries, Field Document 47
Energy and Environment Basics, RM 29
Biomass Energy in ASEAN Member Countries, Report
No Substitution of Traditional Fuels, Paper
Images of Wood and Biomass Energy in Industries in Thailand, Field Document 52
Status and Development Issues of the Brick Industry in Asia, Field Document 35
Proceedings of the Regional Expert Consultation on Selection Criteria and Priority Rating for Assistance to Traditional Biomass Energy Using Industries, RM 32
The report of the Regional Workshop on Stoves Used for Space Heating and Cooking at Different Altitudes and/by Ethnic Groups, RM 28

Other Issues in Wood Energy

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