Earth Summit

One of the results of the Special Session of the UN General Assembly, which met in New York in June 1997 to assess the progress made since Rio, is a new intergovernmental panel on forests called the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF), which has been established under the aegis of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development with a secretariat based in New York.

Sustainable development: development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs ...

The following extract is taken from the text on Forests which was adopted at the Special Session of the General Assembly.

"The management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests are a crucial factor in economic and social development, in environmental protection, and in the Planet’s life support system. Forests are one of the major reservoirs of biological diversity and are carbon sinks and reservoirs, and are a significant source of renewable energy [Ed. note: our italics] particularly in the least-developed countries. Forests are an integral part of sustainable development and are essential to many indigenous people and other forest-dependent people embodying traditional lifestyles, forest owners and local communities, many of whom possess important traditional forest-related knowledge."

Detailed information on the Earth Summit can be found at the following web site: http://www.un.org/dpcsd/earthsummit/

Latin American Technical Cooperation
Network on Dendroenergy (land)

The Technical Cooperation Networks are mechanisms established by national institutions, either public or private, aimed at the exchange of experiences and knowledge among the countries, basically by making use of their own technical, human and financial resources.

In view of the necessity to establish a broad basis of cooperation on dendroenergy in the region, owing to the importance of wood as a source of energy for domestic and industrial use, LAND was formally established in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in October 1984, with the initial participation of nine countries. The first Regional Coordinating Institution of the Network was the Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Industrial (INTI) of Argentina, followed by the Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral (ESPOL) in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Since 1995, the regional coordinating institution has been the Escola Federal de Engenharía de Itajuba (EFEI) in Itajuba, Brazil.

To date, 16 countries have joined the Network: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cuba, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru and Uruguay.

The Network is composed of national institutions (one for each country) that undertake activities in the field of dendroenergy. In general, these institutions are of a governmental nature; however, non-governmental institutions may also be members of the Network, if so determined by the respective countries.

For more information, please contact the Technical Secretary: Mr Torsten Frisk, Senior Forestry Officer, FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, Casilla 10095, Santiago, Chile.
Fax: +56-2-3372101/2/3

E-mail: Torsten.Frisk@field.fao.org

Biomass Summer School, Austria

Graz University of Technology (Austria), together with the Austrian Biomass Association and the Austrian Ministry of Science and Transport, organized the Second Biomass Summer School at Graz University of Technology from 8 to 12 September 1997. Attendance was limited to 35 participants from all parts of the world.

FAO’s Wood Energy Programme sponsored a participant from the Latin American region, and the Regional Wood Energy Development Project (RWEDP) sponsored three participants from Asia.

The topics discussed covered the most important points of energy production from biomass: the characterization of biomass fuels, pretreatment technologies, the conversion steps combustion and gasification, possibilities of small-scale combined heat and power production, the production and utilization of biofuels (RME, AME and ethanol), as well as environmental aspects. Lectures focused on important new developments, such as biomass pellet production, a new technology for efficient dust precipitation (the rotational particle separator), gas engines, biomass fuel engines and an innovative technology for small-scale CHP systems (the screw-type engine). A field trip demonstrating thermal biomass utilization as well as RME and AME production from biomass in practice closed the one-week seminar.

The Third Biomass Summer School will take place in 1998, and there are also plans to organize a Biomass Summer School in Latin America during 1998.

For more information, please contact: Dr Ingwald Obernberger, Institute of Chemical Engineering, Graz University of Technology, Inffeldgasse 25, A-8010 Graz, Austria.
Fax: +43-316-873-7469

World Energy Council

The Developing Countries Committee agenda, at its meeting at Kusadasi, Turkey, on 7 October 1996, included a forum on rural energy development. Speakers included Francisco Guitierrez, former Executive Secretary of OLADE, on the rural energy situation in Latin America, and Gerald Leach of the World Bank on the findings of the Bank’s study, Rural energy development: improving energy supplies for 2 billion people. Regional coordinators will present their draft chapters for the rural energy study at the next meeting of the Steering Committee. The study report is due to be completed before the 1998 World Energy Council Congress in Houston, Texas, United States. (Source: Bulletin d’Information [World Energy Council], Issue 3, March 1997.)


(Extracted from World Food Summit Fact Sheet The role of forests in food security)

Wood energy is drawing increasing attention as an environmentally friendly source of energy. Wood is still people’s main source of fuel for cooking, processing and preserving food, and will continue to be for many years to come. Worldwide, 2 000 million people depend on wood for cooking, a basic step in ensuring proper nutrition. In many developing countries, fuelwood supplies as much as 97 percent of total energy consumption. Wood-based energy systems are the most readily available in many areas and, when properly managed, they are not only versatile and sustainable but also effective in generating income and jobs.

Des résidus source d’énergie

Désireuses de disposer de leurs résidus selon un objectif de développement durable, les papeteries utilisent à des fins énergétiques des écorces, des résidus de sciage, la liqueur issue de la cuisson des copeaux ou encore des résidus provenant du désencrage des papiers rebuts et du traitement des eaux de procédés. Selon une étude récente, les papeteries et les scieries québécoises engendrent annuellement plus de 4 millions de tonnes d’écorces, de sciures, de planures et de boues qui peuvent être valorisées à des fins énergétiques, horticoles ou autres. Dans la cogénération, par exemple, ces résidus deviennent de précieuses ressources. Au fil des ans, les usines de la pâte et du papier du Québec ont augmenté considérablement leur utilisation de biomasse.

Les combustibles renouvelables issus de la biomasse, telles les écorces, couvrent aujourd’hui près de 50 pour cent des besoins en énergie thermique des usines de papeterie du Québec. En plus de réduire l’accumulation d’écorces aux bords des scieries, cette option a permis aux usines de la pâte et du papier de réduire considérablement l’utilisation des combustibles fossiles. Cette dernière facette est importante, car elle contribue grandement à réduire les émissions de dioxyde de carbone. L’industrie forestière considère donc important de privilégier la valorisation énergétique de la biomasse. (Source: LIAISON – Energie-Francophonie, no 32, 3e trimestre 1996 [Institut de l’énergie des pays ayant en commun l’usage du français – IEPF. 56, rue Saint-Pierre, 3e étage, Québec G1K 4A1, Canada].)

Rice straw to ethanol project

The United States Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is working with a private company to evaluate the potential of turning rice straw into ethanol. The project’s first phase consisted of laboratory-conducted pre-feasibility studies which, according to the Biofuels UPDATE, determined the conversion yields and rates of rice straw and combustion properties of residuals from fermentation. The project is now entering its second phase which will be geared towards obtaining data to develop a business plan, as well as pilot-scale testing and refining costs. (Source: Bio Bulletin, Vol. IV, Issue VI, June 1997.)

LEAP 2000: new directions in energy analysis

A new century is approaching with new demands on incorporating environmental externalities and greenhouse gas mitigation costs in energy planning. With a need for better simulation techniques and more user-friendly tools, the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) is developing a new energy planning software tool – LEAP 2000.

LEAP 2000 builds on almost a decade of experience embedded in the use and development of the Long-range Energy Alternatives Planning (LEAP) system developed by SEI. (Source: Renewable Energy for Development [newsletter of the Energy, Environment and Development Programme of the Stockholm Environment Institute], March 1997.)



Energy scenarios


data base






The Energy scenarios
group consists of several closely
linked programmes: Demand,
Transformation, Biomass, Environment
and Evaluation.
These are the main tools used to perform an
integrated energy-environment planning exercise for a single area (country, province, region, etc.).
The Aggregation programme is a tool used to
display multi-area results from analyses carried
out in different areas.
EDB can either be used as a stand-alone reference tool, or linked to the rest of LEAP to calculate
automatically emissions and other environmental impacts of energy scenarios.

For more information, please contact: Mr Charles Heaps, SEI-Boston,
11 Arlington Street, Boston,

MA 02116-3411, USA.
Fax: +1-617-266-8303
E-mail: cheaps@tellus.com

Eco-efficiency: business and the environment

The business community is taking on a greater role in preventing environmental hazards, as well as in correcting them when they do occur. More and more companies take into account economic, technological and social implications when designing, producing and marketing their products.

This was not the scenario a decade ago. Those concerned about the environment often cast business in the role of the villain: the primary source of pollution and the main misuser of resources. Today, however, the countries in which business has been most successful in creating wealth for society are those most able to clean up pollution and manage resources. Nowadays these same countries must encourage developing nations to avoid the more polluting aspects of the early northern industrial revolutions and of the industrialization of centrally planned economies. "So much of the world needs to improve its standard of living," said Mr Livio DeSimone, Chief Executive Officer of 3M and Chairman of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). "Unless that growth is controlled in a sustainable way, we will put undue stress on the planet’s scarce resources."

WBCSD is committed to being a partner in protecting the environment. In a recent report, entitled Signals of change: business progress towards sustainable development, the group notes a number of changes in direction and momentum towards sustainable development. "We think that these changes signal a paradigm shift in the way in which business does business. It is a shift from a fractured view of environment and development issues to a holistic view of business and sustainable development," say the authors Stephen Schmidheiny, Chairman of Anova Holding, and Rodney Chase, Managing Director of British Petroleum – both former chairmen of the WBCSD – and Mr DeSimone. (Source: International Herald Tribune, 23 June 1997.)

Biomass in tropical countries

Tropical countries enjoy favourable conditions for growing biomass. However, constraints to optimal use as an energy source are still to be resolved. The main issues are legal and institutional barriers, as well as a lack of information and technology transfer. Furthermore, common misconceptions about biomass energy have to be redressed. It should be emphasized that the larger part of wood fuels comes from non-forest land; wood fuel use is not the root cause of deforestation; biomass energy is more than a traditional commodity; and biomass energy will not phase itself out in the foreseeable future.

Managed properly, biomass energy (or bio-energy) can be sustainable, environmentally benign and economically sound. Moreover, biomass energy creates substantial local employment. The advantages are also being recognized in industrialized countries, and several governments have successfully adopted articulate policies for promoting biomass energy. (Source: Biomass: more than a traditional form of energy, a publication of the FAO Regional Wood Energy Development Programme in Asia in cooperation with the EC-ASEAN COGEN Programme and the ASEAN-EC Energy Management Training Research Centre.)

For more information, please contact: Mr Wim Hulscher, Regional Wood Energy Development Programme
(RWEDP), FAO, Maliwan Mansion, Phra Atit Road, Bangkok 10200, Thailand. Fax: +66-2-2800445
E-mail: Wim.Hulscher@field.fao.org

How sustainable are energy crops in Europe?

Energy crops may play an important part in the supply of energy to the European Union. Increasing attention has been paid to these renewable energy sources since the 1970s. The contribution of biomass to the European energy supply is currently about 2 percent, and its use has increased considerably during recent years. An important stimulus for this has been the permission extended to farmers to cultivate non-food crops on fallow land, while retaining the fallow premium. Besides this, transport fuel based on agricultural crops is sold free of excise duty in a number of countries, such as France and Germany. During 1995/96, nearly 800 000 ha of fallow land in the European Union lay under rape oilseed. So the importance is clear, but how sustainable are these crops?

The Centre for Agriculture and the Environment (CLM) has developed a methodology for a systematic assessment of the ecological and socio-economic sustainability of energy crops. The report, Sustainability of energy crops in Europe – a methodology developed and applied, can be ordered from CLM. The research has been conducted with financial support from the Netherlands National Research Programme on Global Air Pollution and Climate Change (NRP/MLK) and the Netherlands Agency for Energy and the Environment (NOVEM). (Source: Change 34, January 1997.)

For more information, please contact: Mr Gert van der Bijl, Centre for Agriculture and the Environment (CLM), PO Box 10015, 3505 AA Utrecht, the Netherlands.
Fax: +31-30-244-1318
E-mail: gvdbijl@clm.nl

Diesel fuel substitutes – Jatropha curcas L.

Following the oil crisis of the 1970s and recognition of the limitations of world oil resources, plant species which can be processed to provide a diesel fuel substitute have received special attention. Most of the research was carried out in temperate regions with the aim of making available to farmers possibilities for diversifying in view of the increasing subsidy-driven surpluses in traditional commodities. Another argument for the cultivation of oil crops for energy purposes is the increasing global warming/greenhouse effect. When these fuels are burnt, the atmosphere is not polluted by carbon dioxide, since this has already been assimilated during the growth of these crops. The CO2 balance, therefore, remains equable.

Special interest has been shown in the physic nut (Jatropha curcas L.) for this purpose, especially since it is drought resistant and can potentially be used to produce oil from marginal semi-arid lands, without competing with food production. (Source: Extracted from Physic nut [Jatropha curcas L.] by Joachim Heller, published as No. 1 in IPGRI’s Promoting the Conservation and Use of Underutilized and Neglected Crops Series.)

For more information, please contact: IPGRI, Via delle Sette Chiese 142,
00145 Rome, Italy.

Fax: +39-6-5750309
E-mail: j.heller@cgnet.com

International symposium – Jatropha curcas

The International Symposium on Biofuel and Industrial Products from Jatropha curcas and Other Tropical Oil Seed Plants (Jatropha 97) took place in Managua, Nicaragua, from 23 to 27 February 1997. It was attended by over 100 participants from approximately 15 countries; most of the participants, however, came from Nicaragua.

The symposium was organized by Sucher & Holzer, Austria, in cooperation with the Technical University, Managua, Karl-Franzens University, Graz and the Technical University, Graz. Sucher & Holzer is a private consultant agency which is running a project on the production of physic nut methyl esters as a substitute for diesel fuel in Nicaragua. The project is being funded by the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the last seven years, 1 000 ha of physic nut plantations were established on private land around the town of León and a pilot plant for the production of methyl esters, aimed at producing 1 500 tonnes of methyl esters annually, is in the final stage of completion. This will eventually substitute 0.3 percent of Nicaragua’s diesel fuel demand. Considerable research has recently been carried out on certain aspects of Jatropha curcas (e.g. characterization/evaluation, toxicology, pest and diseases, insecticidal properties, etc.), mainly by the Technical University, Managua to give the Austrian development project scientific support. There is now increasing awareness of the need for provenance trials, before establishing plantations. Numerous provenances were collected from all over the region and are being characterized and evaluated in Nicaragua and Mexico. However, this happens in a rather uncoordinated way and the establishment of an informal network (which was not the objective of the symposium) would improve efficiency of these and other activities. (Source: Travel report by Joachim Heller.)

For more information and a list of abstracts, please contact: Proyecto Biomasa, Apartado postal 432,
Managua, Nicaragua.
Fax: +502-2-490937
E-mail: biomasa@ibw.com.ni
Sucher & Holzer, Aid Development, Alberstrasse 4/II, A-8010 Graz, Austria.
Fax: +43-316-383703
E-mail: keil@email.kfunigraz.ac.at

The vertical shaft brick kiln

The vertical shaft brick kiln (VSBK) has become widespread in China and is slowly gaining a foothold in Pakistan. In India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, the relatively energy-efficient Bull’s trench kilns are standard; although VSBKs are using 30 to 50 percent less energy, this new technology still has to prove its worth locally. However, with a growing awareness of the environmental impact of the brick industry, new emission standards are now being introduced and enforced, thus providing an opportunity for the VSBK technology which pollutes less than other methods. (Source: VSBK Newsletter, September 1996.)

For more information, please contact: Mr Henrik Norsker, Editor, VSBK Newsletter, Rorbaekvej 10, DK 8766, Nr. Snede, Denmark.
E-mail: hnorsker@post2.tele.dk
Ms Hannah Schreckenbach, GATE in GTZ, PO Box 5180, D 65726 Eschborn, Germany.
Fax: +49-6196-797352
E-mail: gate-isat@gtz.de
(German Appropriate Technology Exchange [GATE] is a quarterly magazine founded in 1978 as a special division of the German Agency for Technical Cooperation [Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit, GmbH – GTZ]. There is an article in issue No. 3/95 of GATE by Thomas Neumaier entitled Vertical shaft brick kiln, Peshawar – environmentally friendly technology. This article is also available on the Internet at the following address:

And have you heard about ...

Boiling Point – a technical journal for those working with stoves and household energy? It deals with technical, social, financial and environmental issues and aims to improve the quality of life for poor communities living in the developing world. Recent issues have covered: Household energy in high cold regions (April 1997); and Biomass fuels: their use and how different fuels affect technology choice (September 1997).

Boiling Point is produced by the Intermediate Technology Development Group’s Household Energy Programme (HEP) of GTZ. Intermediate Technology, a British charity, enables poor people in developing countries to develop and use technologies and methods which give them more control over their lives and contributes to the long-term development of their communities.


For more information, please contact: Ms Elizabeth Bates, Boiling Point Coordinator, Intermediate Technology, Myson House, Railway Terrace, Rugby CV21 3HT, UK.
Fax: +44-1788-540270
E-mail: elizabeth@itdg.org.uk

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