Unified Wood Energy Terminology – UBET
Rome, 3 – 4 October 2001
Twenty-five experts from Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa, belonging to leading international, regional and national organizations in the topic of wood energy met at FAO in Rome, from 3 to 4 October 2001.
- wood energy is, and will remain in the future, an important source of energy;
- properly harnessed, wood energy provides the opportunity to foster sustainable development, particularly at the local level;
- the discussion on climate change opens new opportunities for the development of bioenergy;
- data and information on woodfuels (and other biofuels) are crucial for the evaluation of the current situation, the assessment of environmental issues and constitute the basis for wood energy planning and sound forestry and bioenergy policies.
on the other hand,
- the importance of wood energy is not yet properly recognized by energy and forestry planners and policy-makers;
- the national and international capabilities for the systematic collection, analysis and presentation of woodfuel statistics are often dramatically insufficient and focused mainly on the demand side leaving unattended most issues related to supply and its sustainability;
- the terminology used for collection, analysis and presentation of woodfuel statistics is not properly defined and standardized;
- most countries lack appropriate tools, methodologies and human resources for data collection, interpretation, planning; and
- there is insufficient coordination and collaboration among national, regional and international organizations (forestry, energy and agriculture).
- a revised list of the terms with their definitions which will be described in a publication called “A Unified Wood Energy Terminology (UBET), Definitions and Descriptions” to be edited by FAO.
- various methodologies needed for bioenergy information and planning, including:
- an approach to be followed for the identification and classification of main biofuels, and
- tools for the development of improved national wood energy statistics as well as the implementation of wood energy planning exercises.
- to be actively involved in the adoption, application and dissemination of UBET;
- to increase cooperation at regional/international levels for the development of improved woodfuel statistics and planning systems; and
- to help in launching and to support an initiative directed to improve the understanding and quantification of bioenergy supply sources.
Data from national administrations are, in most cases, inadequate both in quantity and quality. Energy statistics are frequently restricted to the commercial (and thus more easily measurable) component of the energy picture. In developing countries, there is often a lack of expertise as well as financial and human resources for adequate data collection and estimation, a task rendered more difficult by the decentralized, mostly rural, and largely non-marketed nature of bioenergy use. The variety of sources, the lack of uniform definitions and methodologies, and the use of different units and conversion factors, make comparison between countries and assessment of time trends a difficult task. Even where the figures and values presented or estimated by national and international statistics are well established, the structure of the bioenergy database is affected by the following problems.
- Coverage. Different international agencies produce periodic statistical data (i.e. FAOSTAT, UNECE, IEA, OLADE, Eurostat) on products related to bioenergy but with very heterogeneous approaches and without truly covering bioenergy. Those statistics are based on a few and selected biofuels only (e.g. FAO covers charcoal and “wood fuel, including wood for charcoal” as a subcategory of roundwood removals; Eurostat covers biomass as a renewable energy source with a subcategory called “wood and wood waste” that includes, in spite of the definition, also lingo cellulosic biomass from agroresidues; IEA publishes data on primary solid biomass inclusive of wood and non-wood biomass but keeps estimates of subcomponents such as wood, black liquor and agricultural residues. The data on biofuels, and woodfuels in particular, have also to fit into the structure of the energy and forestry statistics which are the main basis for modeling and forecasting work that is undertaken in the technical organizations involved. For instance, data on black liquor (the most important form of wood energy in many developed countries) are omitted in FAO statistics. In addition, key agrofuels are not considered at all in most of the statistics.
- Disaggregation. Most existing information on biofuels and woodfuels is focused on biomass consumption and does not pay sufficient attention to other related aspects such as production and supply sources. Regardless of the importance of non-forest supply sources of wood energy and the large use of recycled products, the supply side is not disaggregated in the FAO wood energy database. On the other hand, although there is a clear shift of wood energy demand from traditional to modern uses, with considerable repercussions for the whole wood energy systems, information on demand is absent in the current FAO database. One important requirement seen here is a need to assess consumption in rural and urban areas separately.
- Definition incompatibility. The main terminology currently used by the above agencies is not adequate for the proper collection, collation, exchange and presentation of biofuel data yet. The absence of a comprehensive framework and clear sets of definitions limits the possibility of comparison and exchange with other data sources on bioenergy.
- Uncertainty of conversion factors. Bioenergy accounting covers primary data from various sources. Energy sources and commodities may be measured by their mass or weight or even volume, but the essential factor is the energy content related to these sources and commodities. The uncertainty of conversion factors limits the possibility of comparison and exchange with other data sources.
Therefore there is a strong need for a unified terminology which will improve data collection and exchange in order to enable assessments and policy analysis at a national and international level. To develop an adequate database for bioenergy, the following aspects need to be taken into consideration.
- Supply sources: including forestry and agriculture, biomass processing industries (wood industry and agroindustry) and end-use products of the society as well as biofuel preparation activities (i.e. charcoal production).
- Demand (users’ side): including the main demand sectors (residential, commercial, industrial sectors and heat and power generation) as well as the distinction between urban and rural areas.
- Biofuel trade: including import and export of biofuels.
The basic idea behind such a terminology is to create a suitable framework for the identification of the amount and type of bioenergy flowing from different supply sources to meet end users needs. Thus the fuel or product used to transport energy is the basic parameter to be accounted and properly classified. Whether in commercial or non-commercial terms, these fuels should always be considered goods or commodities that are valuable and capable of meeting demand effectively.