The importance of wood as a sustainable energy supply option and the problems associated with it are largely undervalued by planners and policy makers. Various widespread misconceptions hamper the development of the wood energy sector. The following are some examples:
Misconception: "Wood is not very relevant as an energy source"
In fact, wood supplies about 30% of total energy consumption in the RWEDP member-countries.
Misconception: "Woodfuels are phasing out"
No. In all RWEDP countries the consumption of wood and other biomass fuels is still increasing in absolute terms, even when their share in national energy consumption is decreasing.
Misconception: "Woodfuel has little value"
The total value of woodfuels amounts to some US$ 30 billion per annum for the RWEDP countries together.
Misconception: "Only poor and rural households use woodfuel"
Surveys have shown that in many towns and even in some metropolitan areas woodfuels are widely used by both low- and high-income groups.
Misconception: "Woodfuel is a traditional commodity only"
At present, modern technologies are increasingly being applied to woodfuel development. Many industrialized countries are deliberately increasing wood energy use, for environmental and socio-economic reasons.
Misconception: "Woodfuels are being substituted by modern fuels"
Generally not. Modern applications use modern fuels, which largely complement traditional fuel use.
Misconception: "Most fuelwood originates from forest lands"
This conflicts with many survey results revealing that some 2/3 of all woodfuels originate from non-forest land.
Misconception: "Woodfuel use is responsible for destroying the natural forests"
This assumption dates from the 1970s. Now, plenty of evidence is available to show that woodfuel use is not a major cause of deforestation.
Misconception: "Fuelwood is collected for free"
Some is, but a lot is not!
Misconception: "Woodfuels are a gift from nature"
Many people, particularly in Asia, treat fuelwood as a commodity which can be, and indeed partly is, produced and harvested like rice or wheat, though with a much longer gestation period.
Misconception: "Woodfuel production is a marginal sub-sector"
Woodfuel businesses are the main source of income for about 10% of rural households, supplying about 40% of their cash earnings. Woodfuel use generates at least 20 times more local employment than energy from oil products (per unit of energy).
Misconception: "Wood energy cannot be planned because of lack of data"
Indicative planning does not require a full set of data. This type of planning can support policy making.
Misconception: "Burning wood adds more CO2 to the atmosphere than oil"
Sustainable re-growth of woodfuel captures the CO2 back from the atmosphere. The net effect on the global atmosphere is zero, unlike that of fossil fuels.
Misconception: "With respect to renewable forms of energy R&D should focus on solar, wind and hydro energy"
Wood energy is renewable. Of the various renewable sources of energy wood provides by far the largest share in the region!