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FAO has assembled and published historical statistical data in its Forest Products Yearbook and prepared other studies on fuelwood and charcoal. As part of its Wood Energy Programme (WEP) of the Forest Products Division, the Organization is continuously reviewing and improving its Wood Energy Information System (WEIS).

In recent years, as result of this continuous process, WEIS has considerably expanded its scope and its linkages with regional and international bodies producing and/or using information and statistics on energy, bioenergy, forest products, biomass, agricultural residues, etc. In this context and in order to set clarity on the complex issue of wood energy information, WEP developed the interactive Wood Energy Information System (i-WEIS), which assembled wood energy data from WEIS, from international databases and other national sources, allowing the combined consultation and comparison of such sources on a given country, item and period of time.

Unfortunately, the communication among the many institutions contributing to, or benefiting from, statistics on biofuels is often limited by the heterogeneity of terms, definitions, aggregation levels, etc., adopted by each institution or simply by the lack of clear definitions. The effect of such heterogeneity is that data comparisons and integration are often impossible, as well as making the processes of “harmonization” more risky.

This paper examines and reviews currently used terminology and definitions for woodfuels and other biofuels used in FAO and other major databases on biomass-based energy sources. It proposes ways to improve the methodology for the definition, classification, compilation and presentation of biofuel data and information using the Unified Bioenergy Terminology (UBET).

FAO efforts towards commonly accepted standards, aimed at improving the dialogue and synergies among energy and forestry operators started 7 years ago. The production and circulation of several drafts of the Unified Wood Energy Terminology (UWET) for discussion took place and inter-agency workshops were held, the last one being in Rome in October 2001. In the process, the target of this initiative widened from pure “Wood Energy” to a wider “Bioenergy” perspective, in consideration of the “family” of biofuels where woodfuels belong. This occurred because of to the common social, economic, cultural contexts and technological aspects involved. Moreover, we believe that understanding the true role of forests and trees as a source of energy, and their sustainable management, requires a comprehensive view of this complex subject, including non-forest woodfuels sources and non-wood biofuels.

Wulf Killmann

Forest Products and Economics Division
Forestry Department

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