Forests and trees provide a significant share of the world's energy use, accounting for about 7 percent of the total energy used. For developing countries, wood energy is of considerably greater importance than in industrialised countries - about 15 percent of their energy needs come from woodfuel, with about 80 percent of all their wood being used for this purpose (WEC 1999). The industrialised countries depend much more heavily on fossil fuels with only 2 percent of their energy demand coming from wood. Woodfuel production is overwhelmingly concentrated in the developing world with over three-quarters of annual production located there.
Most bioenergy comes from natural or semi-natural forests or woodlands, agricultural sources or other by-products, rather than from planted trees and shrubs. Despite this there is growing recognition that planted woody species are an important means of providing energy in a wide range of specific situations.
The word plantation has been variously defined. According to FAO, for tropical and subtropical regions, plantations consist of forest stands established by planting or seeding with introduced or indigenous species (FAO 2000). They exclude stands, which although they may have been planted, are without intensive management and are better regarded as semi-natural and they also exclude tree-crops like oil palm and rubber. However, in this report, particularly the latter sections, we will cover planted woody species (both trees and shrubs) grown both as forest stands and outside forests.
This paper reviews the current situation and future for trees planted for energy in developing countries. As most of these developing countries, as defined in the World Energy Council report (WEC 1999) are located in the tropics, the emphasis is on the tropical situation.