For information on any aspect of wood energy or fuelwood, please contact

Mr M.A. Trossero, Senior Forestry Officer (Wood Energy)
Wood and Non-Wood Products Utilization Branch
Forest Products Division, Forestry Department, FAO
Rome, Italy
Fax: +39-6-52255618

Send your comments to:


In 1996, FAO's Wood Energy Programme initiated the review, collection and organization, and the systematic storage of information and statistical data concerning wood energy aspects and issues. In this regard, activities have been initiated for the preparation of regional studies called "Wood Energy Today for Tomorrow" (WETT). Three main regional WETT studies have been initiated: in Asia, Latin America and European countries. The main aims of these studies are to: assess the consumption of fuelwood and charcoal by different categories of users (households, industrial, commercial and public) in different developed and developing countries and describe the interrelations between the forestry, energy and rural development sectors. This information is also expected to provide a better understanding of the dynamics of and the role played by wood energy systems in the different economic layers of society in developed and, especially, developing countries. These regional studies will be completed with others for Africa and the Middle East. At the end of these studies, a Wood Energy Information System (WEIS) will be established, in FAO Rome, to serve all interested public and private organizations. WEIS will contribute by answering main questions concerning where, how much and how wood fuels are used, and also by the planning of more sustainable wood energy systems.

These studies have been undertaken with the active collaboration and cooperation of different groups (IEA, EU, ECE), regional energy organizations and field projects. It is foreseen that the results will also reach and benefit the entire community of wood energy experts and policy and decision-makers, and will contribute to answer some key questions about where, how much, and how fuelwood, charcoal and other derived woody fuels are produced, traded and used.

The data collected confirms once again that the contribution of biomass (mainly wood) to the world's total primary energy consumption is approx. 15-18 percent. Wood fuels remain the most commonly used fuel by most people in the world. This situation will continue as a result of the current population growth rate, immigration of rural poor to urban areas and man-made disasters (refugees camps), as well as for cultural and sociological reasons. Wood energy is the fourth largest source of energy in EU countries. In developing countries woody biomass will remain the main source of energy in the years to come, while in developed countries it contributes much more to energy generation than hydro and nuclear energy together, and its demand is expected to increase as a result of new energy policy reforms, recently approved environmental legislation and rising international oil prices.

In developing countries, deforestation and the progressive deterioration of natural ecosystems in those areas where fuelwood and charcoal are intensively used (i.e.: large urban centers, high concentration of rural industries, refugees camps) remain the main areas for attention, particularly in fragile arid and semi-arid areas. Unfortunately, information and data about how, where, and how much wood fuel is used are still insufficient, inaccurate and scanty. Moreover, the interrelations of wood fuel activities with other areas (within and outside the forestry sector), as well as their influence on different socio-economic sectors, are not yet properly understood. Therefore, the implementation of specific area-based wood fuel flow studies and planning exercises for the development of optimized wood energy systems will constitute the main priority of both our regular and field programme activities.

Accordingly, additional technical assistance will be provided in line with Agenda 21 and other international agreements (see summary below on Household Energy and Agenda 21, HEDON Discussion Paper No. 1) in order to: assess wood fuel flows in high and critical consumption areas of developing countries; evaluate different solutions to reduce the depletion of existing resources and plan the execution of main interventions selected followed by the promotion and dissemination of methodological tools, the establishment of national and regional wood energy information systems with accurate data on wood fuel production, trade and use; together with the development of skilled human resources, properly trained, from the forestry and energy sector - all these will constitute the main areas to be developed by the Wood Energy Programme in its promotion of more sustainable Wood Energy Systems.

The World Food Summit held in Rome from 13-17 November 1996, was the largest gathering of its kind, encompassing governments, international organizations, the private sector and both local and international NGOs with an interest in food security aspects and issues. The resultant Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action in its seven commitments stressed the multidisciplinary importance of forests in general, and wood fuels in particular, in ensuring "Food for All". Therefore, in order to realize the full potential of forests in Food Security, new initiatives are also expected from wood energy programmes, projects and activities.

In the meantime, the contribution of wood energy in the national energy balances of developed countries is also expected to increase as a result of new energy policies and legislation aimed to comply with Agenda 21, the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCCA), and market deregulation to promote a more active participation of the private sector.

New wood energy initiatives are being adopted in many European countries, such as Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria and Switzerland, to promote wood energy as an environmentally friendly, locally available, technically mature and economically competitive source of energy. These countries will soon be followed by others, such as Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia, India and Thailand, which have a good potential for bioenergy activities. However, information and data on biomass resources, market opportunities and know-how available will be required for their planning and proper implementation. These projects will need to be accompanied by training and education, in order to develop all the human resources required; these are areas in which FAO is expected to play an important role in assisting member countries.

In this particular regard, the Wood Energy Programme (in close collaboration with the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean) has initiated the preparation of a "Wood Energy Textbook" for university students of forestry and engineering.

After years of exchanging information and experience and technical assistance within the framework of TCDC (Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries), the Wood Energy Programme successfully initiated in 1996 the implementation of activities with the collaboration of experts from research and academic centres from developed countries; in this connection, it is worth mentioning the close links that have been developed with the Department of Science, Technology and Society of the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. We expect to continue our collaboration with them in 1997 and will explore new subjects and initiatives; at the same time, we will extend this collaboration to the universities and research centres from developing countries.

For further information, please contact:

Mr M.A. Trossero, Senior Forestry Officer (Wood Energy)
Address found at beginning of Energy Corner section

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Forests, Fuels and the Future

In the 1970s and early 1980s, environment and development specialists repeatedly warned that forest loss through overcutting of wood for fuel threatened to damage soils, deplete water resources and force needy rural people to migrate from the land as their livelihoods collapsed. In some areas, notably Africa's Sahel, Brazil's Northeast and in the highlands of Nepal, there were signs that this feared "fuelwood crisis" might already have arrived.

International efforts were accordingly set in motion to find ways to boost production, to cut back household consumption of wood and wood-based fuels and to find other renewable power sources to guard against future household energy shortfalls. The 1981 UN Conference on New and Renewable Sources of Energy, convened in Nairobi, Kenya, set an important lead towards these goals.

The resulting Nairobi Programme of Action (NPA) called, among other things, for new monitoring and assessment efforts to gauge the use of "traditional" energy sources such as fuelwood and charcoal. It also recommended global steps to develop new and renewable sources of energy to replace oil and other fossil fuels, also thought at that time to be under imminent threat of a supply crisis. Although some assumptions on which these efforts were based did not fully reflect reality, the NPA led to a more comprehensive understanding of energy production and use, particularly in relation to wood energy.

Without doubt, fuelwood overcutting can multiply economic, environmental and social ills. But in most cases it tends to be an incidental sign rather than a primary cause of forest loss. Furthermore, it is now clear that woodfuels can be - and often are -- produced and harvested along sustainable lines, to the lasting benefit of forests and all who depend on them. A better-informed, more progressive outlook on woodfuels and environment has also been nourished by fresh ideas about wood energy's potential as an environmentally sound power source for industry and, in all its applications, as a key to new sources of income and livelihood. The global energy picture has changed, too. The 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) pledged to achieve, in Chapter 11: "... efficient utilization and assessment to recover full valuation of the goods and services provided by forests, forest lands and woodlands" and in Article 2 of the Framework Convention on Climate Change: "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system".

Many development researchers look to sustainable production of biomass energy, including wood energy, to help tackle this challenge by reducing the use of fossil-based fuels and exploiting the natural carbon cycling function of plant life to the full.

This report discusses these trends by reference to examples from many countries which suggest viable ways to realize the development potential of wood energy without environmental or social drawbacks. It describes a changing role for wood energy in a changing world where fuelwood and wood-based fuels need no longer be associated with poverty of under-development, but could rank among viable modern options open to energy users everywhere.

A concluding section outlines development approaches that could, in the view of FAO, help deliver these benefits and overcome prevailing natural resource limitations and technical or institutional constraints.

From the Foreword "Clarity from Crisis" by David Harcharik, Assistant Director-General, Forestry Department, Food and Agriculture Organization

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Present patterns of energy use in many parts of the world contribute to the mutually reinforcing problems of environmental damage, poor health (particularly among women and children), poverty and under-development. Recognising this, Agenda 21 (the policy document resulting from the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development) called for the development of sound energy policies and practices. Good household energy polices can be of considerable benefit to developing countries' efforts to reduce the vulnerability of the poor, protect the environment, and to promote long-term, sustainable development.

HEDON Discussion Paper No. 1 (presented at the HEDON Meeting which took place in Lund, Sweden, from 28 to 30 September 1995) examines the contributions that appropriate household energy polices and practices can make to the aims of Agenda 21. These are in the areas of: combating deforestation and desertification; protecting the earth's atmosphere; promoting education and the position of women; health; strengthening NGOs and the private sector; ensuring sustainable fuel supply; improving agricultural productivity; combating poverty; and improving planning and architecture with a view to energy conservation and efficiency. It also includes examples of some of the activities undertaken by HEDON members.

(Extract from the Summary of HEDON Discussion Paper No. 1.)
A limited number of copies of the HEDON Discussion Paper No. 1 are available; please contact Mr M.A. Trossero, Senior Forestry Officer (Wood Energy), Wood and Non-Wood Products Utilization Branch, Forest Products Division, Forestry Department, FAO, Rome, Italy.
Fax: +39-6-52255618

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LEAP is the acronym for Long-Range Energy Alternatives Planning System. A dozen versions later, LEAP is widely used by researchers and planners in more than 30 countries to develop sustainable energy strategies. It is a support system for energy and environment decisions, i.e., a software to be used for evaluating and comparing technologies, policies, and development plans, fully taking into consideration any physical, environmental and economic consequences. In the lexicon of energy models, LEAP would be classified as an integrated framework for "bottom-up" model-building and scenario analysis. (Source: SEI [Stockholm Environment Institute] International Environment Bulletin, Vol.3, 1-2/96.)

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This is an interesting case of how a traditional sugar mill is evolving toward becoming a combined supplier of more cost-effective food and energy.

A Seminar on Dendroenergy was held in Managua, Nicaragua, on 14 and 15 April 1996, attended by participants from different Central American countries. The Seminar was organized within the framework of the Latin America Technical Cooperative Network on Dendroenergy to demonstrate the more than ten years of experience on combined heat and electricity generation with bagasse and fuelwood by the Agroinsa Sugar Mill.

A case study is presently being carried out to analyse the technical solutions adopted in Nicaragua for the combined production of sugar and electricity in two sugar mills: Agroinsa and San Antonio. The Agroinsa plant has been operational since 1985 and now has a capacity for electricity generation of up to 12MW. This capacity is expected to increase to 36MW in the near future. The production of electricity is generated using bagasse as fuel during the sugar cane production season which last six months; the power plant is fuelled with fuelwood derived from ad hoc eucalyptus plantations for the other six months. So far, there are approximately 3 000 hectares of eucalyptus plantations, but this amount is increasing continuously and is expected to reach 5 800 hectares in 1999, an amount which permits self-sufficiency insustainable fuelwood production. The electricity generated is mainly used in the sugar plant and for irrigation of sugar cane plantations; the surplus is sold to the public grid.

The solution has many technical, financial, socio-economical and environmental advantages. Thus, this technical solution is now being replicated in another Nicaraguan sugar mill (San Antonio) and could also be applied in many other similar cases to other countries of Central America.

The case study consists of a desk analysis, using the information available, aimed at carrying out a general analysis of the following main aspects: technical: an analysis of different technical solutions applied in the generation of electricity using both bagasse and wood chips as fuel; financial: carry out an overview of the investment cost of the power plant using biofuels and the cost of heat and power generation; and socio-economic: review of the generation of employment using this solution in comparison to that of the conventional power plants.

Mr M.A. Trossero, Senior Forestry Officer (Wood Energy)
Address found at beginning of Energy Corner section

"It takes 500 full-sized trees to absorb the carbon dioxide produced by a typical car."
(Source: National Community Tree Foundation, Tree Plan Canada.
Tel: +1-514-3958681; Ms Nicole Vien)

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In a resource-poor community nothing is wasted; everything has a use and a market. As societies develop, however, their demands change for different foods, goods, materials and recreation, and the markets for residues can become less viable and the materials more of a liability. The production of 'waste' seems to be an inherent step within the developmental process, but much depends on where you are, geographically and economically, within the market place. The word itself is also difficult to define, for the wastes of some industries are simply the by-products or the inputs of others.

Considerable progress has been made within many industries and communities in recent times to re-consider the economic opportunities that exist. The role of the entrepreneur with the provision of ideas, finance and risk-taking has provided a measure of ingenuity, and has enabled money to be made.

Wastes have always been with us and we are all familiar, for example, with trends in fashion that dictate that clothes should be discarded before they are worn out, of the excess wrapping used in the presentation of manufactured goods, of motor cars that cannot be repaired economically once depreciation has taken a severe hold, of land spoiled and covered in mining waste and of traditional foods and drinks that are replaced in preference to the images or the convenience that a foreign product may have to offer. In a world of commercial pressures, trends such as these are all-powerful but, increasingly, are no longer essential.

In contrast with the development of human society, nature provides for the recycling of all living organisms within their ecosystem. The various chemical processes involved are well-known, and taught to children early in their school education. Many people also learn from the practical experience of working with animals and crops. Biological decomposition releases carbon dioxide and mineral nutrients into the environment, which then form the starting point of new biological cycles and provide the energy for micro-organisms in soil and water to convert or recycle the natural materials of the forest or farm.

Industrial development, however, has led to the transformation of natural compounds and to the use of new products that do not occur naturally. Many of these materials will not decompose with the speed and convenience of their natural alternatives, and they can become a severe liability to the community. Waste disposal industries have become a significant growth sector throughout the industrial countries and the rapidly industrializing countries, with the more selective use of appropriate equipment and technologies that can, and do, provide employment and income to many thousands of people. There are considerable environmental advantages to be gained when using recycled aluminium, steel, glassware, paper and selected plastics instead of virgin resources.

With current projections that more than 50 percent of humanity will be urban based during the next 30 years, there is an increasing urgency for the introduction and use of town and city waste management systems that will enable people to make full use of the information, technologies and markets available for recycling urban waste. Waste disposal in land-fills close to cities is becoming increasingly unviable and transport costs to distant sites is expensive. Reducing levels of waste and recycling close to the point of production normally makes economic sense.

The coir fibres industries of India and Sri Lanka produce copious quantities of broken fibres, dust and other similar unwanted materials during the fibres' extraction process. (Coir is the fibre produced from the husk of the coconut.) For every tonne of marketable fibres, two tonnes of wastes are produced. Processing factories in both countries are surrounded by man-made mountains of partially decomposed waste coir fibres. Many hectares of land are spoiled and the factory environment is unpleasant and unhygenic for workers. The value of coir fibres waste as a growth mixture for potted or bagged horticultural crops has recently been recognized as an alternative to peat moss in the importing countries. The exploitation of wet lands with the harvesting of peat moss has become unacceptable to the environmental lobbies and, latterly, to the general public in many countries. Coir waste is one of a number of alternative materials that have been considered as a replacement.

A pipeline project shared between the Government of India and FAO and scheduled to begin in 1997 in Karnataka State will explore opportunities for determining the physical, chemical and biological properties for the use of coir waste within the domestic horticultural industry. This will add value to a material which is currently a liability, provide employment and, importantly, help clean-up the waste disposal systems of an industry that, in current commercial form, is more than 150 years old.

(Contributed by: Peter Steele, AGSI, FAO, Rome.
Fax: +39-6-52253152;

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The short article Briquetting Machines in Myanmar in Non-Wood News 3 described the development of simple briquetting equipment manufactured by a Yangon company. The equipment and the market for briquettes was based upon the over-exploitation of natural forests for fuelwood, and the search for alternative sources of energy for use within the main urban centres of the country. Fuelwood supplies, the choice of alternatives, the exploitation of natural gas resources and current energy supply policies and scenarios are wider issues within national energy planning, but they also impact on a project that is much closer to current work programmes.

An ex-colleague, Kyaw Oo Maung, has just begun a period of academic study for his MSc at Silsoe College, Cranfield University in the United Kingdom. Maung is a Myanmar national and he has chosen to explore the constraints and opportunities for the Production and Supply of Small-Scale Energy from Agricultural and Agro-Industrial Wastes. The study, which requires the preparation of a written thesis during mid-1997, will examine the technologies available, the use of existing equipment and the importance of machine design, the availability of waste bio-materials and the implications of energy planning within national requirements. The aim of the study will be to increase the efficiency with which rice waste can be used as a source of energy within the country.

It is early days yet, but Non-Wood News has a wide and sector-specific readership within the network of people who may have the contacts and information that may assist Maung with his studies. The work could be of considerable benefit to the communities that live in resource-poor rice growing areas, such as the delta of the Ayeyarwady River. FAO/UNDP and the Government of Myanmar currently have a project based in the delta 'Community Development of Ayeyarwady Mangroves', to which the findings of the study may have relevance. The delta has traditionally been a source of fuelwood to Yangon, but this trade has now ceased as the result of the severe degradation of natural cover. (Contributed by: Peter Steele, AGSI, FAO, Rome. Fax: +39-6-52253152; E-mail:

For more information, please contact Maung at Silsoe College
Silsoe, Bedford MK45 4DT, UK

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Many institutions in developing countries rely on wood as their primary source of energy for cooking food, baking, heating water and sterilizing. Most of the heating is carried out over open fires or on very simple stoves. These stoves are usually very inefficient and emit a great deal of smoke and heat into the kitchen. With the ever increasing rate of deforestation the price of wood is increasing rapidly and, in some areas, is becoming more difficult to obtain. Schools are spending much more of their budget on fuel. Health authorities are also insisting that hygiene in the kitchen be improved.

Over the past four years, working closely with researchers, entrepreneurs and extension officers in developing countries, Biomass Energy Services and Technology Pty Ltd, (BEST) has developed a number of stoves to meet the needs of institutions. The designs derive from extensive theoretical and experimental research at Reading University and at the BEST research station at Wamberal, Australia. Computer models help to determine the performance of different designs, and test rigs help to determine their operating characteristics using different fuels with a range of moisture contents. A number of prototypes have been built and tested at Wamberal, and one design is undergoing field trials in Papua New Guinea. Twelve single pot designs are being built for schools in Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands as part of a World Bank/AIDAB aid project. A full cooking range similar to that marketed by the AGA company has also been developed and tested on an Australian farm. (Source: GLOW [volume 19, March 1996], a publication of the Asia Regional Cookstove Program (ARECOP), P.O. Box 19, Bulaksumur, Yogyakarta, Indonesia.)

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PKPEK (the Association for Economic Development and Studies of Micro-enterprises) of Indonesia has introduced improved cookstoves to palm sugar producers near Yogyakarta. The palm sugar producers are taking part in making the stoves themselves. As well as introducing improved cookstoves and improving kitchen conditions which influence the quality of the sugar produced, PKPEK intends to increase the income of palm sugar producers by offering an alternative product: a granulated palm sugar, which has a higher added value than conventional sugar. The enthusiastic response of the producers in accepting this alternative product was shown by their creativity in further developing their product by adding a ginger extract. The final result is a refreshing, zesty ginger beverage. (Source: Letter from the Secretariat, May 1996.)

For further information, please contact:

The Asia Regional Cookstove Program (ARECOP)
P.O. Box 19, Bulaksumur, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

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A project using plant oil as stove fuel is presently in the pipeline at the Institute for Agriculture Engineering in the Tropics and Subtropics, Germany. The idea is to develop a burner which uses the plant oil without any additive and to replace charcoal, wood stoves or kerosene burners for cooking.

For more information, please contact:

Claus Martin Braunbeck, Institute for Agriculture Engineering in the Tropics and Subtropics, Hohenheim University, Garbenstr. 9, 70593 Stuttgart, Germany.
Fax: +49-711-4593298

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The main goal of IT's Energy Programme is to offer rural communities affordable energy supplies. These improve living conditions, and create jobs by providing power for workshops and other small businesses. The approaches advocated by IT are cost-effective and keep environmental impact to the minimum. Its expertise in this field is recognized internationally.

In June 1995, an evaluation team visited IT's rural stoves project in West Kenya. Since 1989, the project has supported the production and sale of ceramic Upesi stoves, made by women potters, which burn firewood more efficiently than traditional cooking fires.

The evaluation showed that around 15 000 stoves are now made each year. Eight women's groups trained by IT are engaged in this work and their products are of high quality. The improved stoves use at least one-third less wood than traditional fires. They also cut smoke levels in the kitchen by over half and have been shown to have a major impact on reducing the incidence of respiratory diseases.

The challenge now facing IT is to help the stove makers market their stoves more thoroughly - there are potentially a million users in West Kenya alone. (Source: Annual Report 1995/96 of Intermediate Technology.)

For more information, please contact:

Intermediate Technology, Myson House, Railway Terrace, Rugby, CV21 3HT, UK.
Fax: +44-1788-540270

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Le Comité de l'énergie du Conseil Economique et Social des Nations Unies a proposé la convocation d'une Conférence internationale ministérielle sur l'énergie en vue de renforcer la coopération dans ce domaine et d'accélérer l'intégration des secteurs énergétiques des pays de la CEE, notamment entre la partie orientale et la partie occidentale de la région. Des institutions telles que l'Union européenne et d'autres organisations internationales, comme la Charte européenne de l'énergie, l'Agence internationale de l'énergie et l'Agence internationale de l'énergie atomique, seraient invitées à participer et à collaborer à l'organisation de la Conférence.

Une conférence ministérielle contribuerait à favoriser la coordination des initiatives nationales et internationales concernant le commerce de l'énergie et les investissements dans ce secteur. Elle favoriserait la convergence des orientations et des mesures adoptées dans ce domaine et encouragerait le respect des valeurs communes. Elle témoignerait également de l'engagement des ministres de l'énergie en faveur de la protection de l'environnement et du développement durable. Les activités préparatoires à la conférence et la conférence elle-même devraient être centrées sur les questions internationales présentant un intérêt prioritaire pour les pays. Elles devraient favoriser la coopération et la complémentarité entre les organisations et les institutions internationales (en précisant notamment les objectifs et les rôles des unes et des autres) et servir à élaborer un programme d'action et des mesures de suivi.

Extracted from Proposition concernant la tenue d'une conférence ministérielle sur l'énergie (Sixième session, 6-8 novembre 1996, du Comité de l'énergie, Conseil Economique et Social, Nations Unies, Energy/R.129/Add.3).

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On the shores of Lake Baringo, Kenya, a novel approach to using woodfuel and fodder production as a means of restoring land severely denuded through overgrazing has been under test for more than ten years. Solar-powered electric fences exclude grazing animals from formerly fertile areas that have become eroded and face the threat of desertification.

As the protected vegetation regenerates, it supplies local farmers with a generous quota of firewood, hay for dry season fodder and long grasses for thatching. The scheme has won the support of local people, who donate land to the scheme and repossess it once the vegetation cover is restored. (Source: Forests, Fuels and the Future - see box above.)

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Within the Bioenergy Agreement a new project has been adopted as Task XV: Greenhouse Gas Balances of Bioenergy Systems with a focus on the greenhouse gas implications of bioenergy strategies. It started on 1 April 1995 and is expected to continue until the end of 1997. The participating countries are Austria, Canada, Finland, Sweden and USA. The goal of the Task is to investigate all processes involved in bioenergy systems in a full-fuel-cycle basis, with the aim of establishing overall greenhouse gas (GHG) balances.

The work in Task XV is based on the cooperation of experts from the participating countries by means of joint workshops, exchange of data/models/literature and other forms of collaborative activities. The individual research work is sponsored by the participating countries through their national research programmes. The results of Task XV are disseminated through workshop proceedings, semi-annual reports, and other publications and are expected to assist decision makers in the selection of appropriate bioenergy strategies to meet GHG objectives. (Source: IEA Bioenergy News, Volume 7 No. 2 1995.)

For further information, please contact:

Josef Spitzer or Bernhard Schlamadinger, Joanneum Research, Institute for Energy Research, Elisabethstrasse 11, A-8010 Graz, Austria. Fax: +43-316-876320 E-mail:

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One of the main aims of the agricultural policy in the Czech Republic is research into the use of surplus agricultural land for non-food purposes. As a consequence of this, in 1991 the "OLEOPROGRAM" project was started to investigate the application of rape for biodiesel production. The first stage (1992-95) has now been completed.

Theoretically, biodiesel in its pure form could compensate for up to 3.5 percent of the total consumption of engine oil in the Czech Republic next year and, in the case of utilization in a mixed form, even up to 10 percent. From an agro-technological point of view, however, rape growing is limited, which is why the maximum amount of pure biodiesel production is estimated in the future to be approximately 100-120 000 tonnes/year. (Extracted and edited from a paper by Zdenek Pokorný, Research Institute of Agricultural Engineering, Prague)

For more information please contact:

Jaroslav Kára, Head of the Department of Agricultural Energetics, Research Institute of Agricultural Engineering P.O. Box 16, 163 000 Prague 6, Czech Republic Fax: +42-2-3022763

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Some countries continue to think of biofuels as "alternative visions", others have long since begun to act. The overall feeling among the approximately 400 international science and business experts attending the "2nd European Forum for Engine Biofuels", which was held in Graz, Austria, from 22 to 25 September 1996, was one of great excitement.

Why is Biodiesel particularly suitable for modern high-performance engines? There is evidence for:

o better atomization of fuel;

o better fine-tuning of combustion;

o clean combustion; and

o no significant dilution of lubricating oil.

(Source: New Diesel. A newsletter by Vogel & Noot Industrieanlagenbau GesembH, Graz, Austria, No. 2, 1996.)

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The use of diesel fuel made entirely from canola methyl ester, called biodiesel, produces 50 percent less particulates and soot than diesel fossil fuel, and 28 to 31 percent less carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. It has no sulphur emissions.

There is no doubt that biodiesel fuel is more environmentally beneficial; however, it is also more expensive. Mr Rod MacInnes, Research Manager, Canodev Research Inc., Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission, Canada, has estimated that it could be about 70 cents/litre more expensive than diesel fossil fuel. He advises, however, that this cost can be reduced by blending biodiesel with diesel fuel, without reducing the environmental benefits. For example, a blend of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent fossil fuel reduces particulates and soot by 31 percent, carbon monoxide by 21 percent, and hydrocarbons by 47 percent. Even though this blend makes biodiesel more cost-competitive, Canodev Research Inc. are now working on reducing the cost even more by using low-grade canola seeds (green seeds or seeds which have been stored in a moist environment) to produce the canola methyl ester in the hope that the efficiency of the biodiesel from this low-grade canola will be equal to that of the high-grade canola. If it is, the biodiesel will be more economical and a market for lower-value seeds will be created. (Source: IFAP [International Federation of Agricultural Producers] Newsletter No. 1, 1996.)

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This newsletter focuses on Management of Biogas and Natural Resources for sustainable solutions to energy problems in the Asia Region. (Source: ICIMOD Newsletter, Summer 1996.)

For more information, please contact:

Biogas and Natural Resources Management, Consolidated Management Services G.P.O. Box 10872, Katmandu, Nepal. Fax: +977-1-415886

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The Rockefeller Foundation is funding a new ATI initiative in Senegal to promote the commercial production and processing of Jatropha curcas, a fast-growing, drought resistant tree or shrub whose seeds yield an oil that is a potential alternative to diesel fuel. Jatropha is planted as a field hedge by farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America and is an effective barrier against wind and livestock.

ATI and local partners will operate two village level electrical power systems, plus four cereal processing mills, on diesel engines run on jatropha oil. Diesel engines can burn jatropha with no modification or only minor changes designed to increase engine efficiency. With this initiative, ATI aims to demonstrate the profitability and collateral benefits of small-scale jatropha cultivation and oils extraction and processing. Regional or global replication of a successful jatropha programme would multiply manifold the very significant environmental benefits anticipated. (Source: Talking Points, January 1996.)

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In the region of Viterbo, near Rome in Central Italy, at least 300 heating plants for household use are being fuelled with hazelnut husks. The price for buying husks is about US$0.03 (50 lire)/kg. At the same price, however, other plant biomass is also available (wine/olive residues, etc.).

Around 30 000 tonnes of husks are sold every year, but the low price is not enough; for the product to be convenient, powerful and expensive burners are required. Small consumers are, therefore, excluded from the start since, for the investment to be worthwhile, the burner must have a capacity of at least 100 000 Kcal - equal to the power needed to heat a three-storied house. In addition, these plants are three times as expensive as those which run on diesel oil or gas. Being solid products, the combustion system changes. In this case, the fuel is kept in a container which has to be filled every two to three days. From the container, the fuel is then conducted to a grate to burn. It should be noted that the yield is about 70 percent lower than that of diesel oil. This kind of burner also requires a more thorough and regular maintenance. In Germany, similar plants have at least four maintenance visits a year, compared to the one, or maximum two, visits for the diesel oil plants.

Finally, for these plants to be convenient, it is essential to live in an area where the residues are produced: in fact, since their value-added is rather low, it is not worth transporting these fuels to other areas. (Source: Il Messaggero, Sunday 28 April 1996.)

[Editor's note: In this article the main benefits of biofuels have not been described: i.e. reduction in the negative effect of CO2, disposal of residues/wastes, which would otherwise be abandoned in neighbouring areas, and income-generation for local people.]

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The great potential of energy produced from plant biomass is in the possibility it has to reduce dependency on traditional fuels and oil, thus minimizing the consequences of pollution caused by them and, at the same time, addressing the very serious problem of waste disposal in urban areas. The use of biomass for energy is currently regaining importance, which is also due to improved technology and to increased public concern for environmental issues.

The term "biomass" encompasses a large group of materials: from agricultural and forest crops to the residues of agriculture and forestry, sea algae, wastes from the food industry, organic products of human and animal origin, urban wastes.

The use of biomass for energy contributes, on average, 30-35 percent to satisfying the energy needs of developing countries and 3-5 percent in industrialized countries. Biomass provides 15 percent of the total energy consumed in the world and 60 percent of the global supply of renewable energy sources, including geothermal and hydroelectric energy. It is estimated that this contribution will remain high in both the medium- and long-term future.

In the European Union, the potential is great: if EU programmes are fully implemented, it is estimated that by the year 2005 biomass will contribute to the energy needs in the EU with 135 Mtep (million tonnes of oil equivalent), which is equal to 10 percent of the total energy consumption expected in the EU.

In order to tap the full potential offered by biomass resources, it will be essential to focus on continuous technological improvement, on joint management of user and producer enterprises, and on the creation of efficient infrastructures and services which will ensure the constant provision of raw material and technical assistance to the users.

The utilization of biomass in industrialized countries, besides addressing the nightmarish problem of waste disposal (including recycling) in the large urban areas, would enable excess agricultural lands to be used and would put on the market crops having a low environmental impact. Finally, the use of biomass could contribute to the re- and/or afforestation of marginal lands and to their protection against erosion. (Source: Dalle biomasse il futuro per l'energia e l'ambiente. Energia blu, May 1996.)

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Since January 1996, there has been an important shift in the way the Dutch government supports renewable energy. An energy tax and some other fiscal measures to support an environmentally conscious economy have been introduced, while direct government subsidies for renewable energy have been reduced.

One of the measures introduced is the "Green Fund". This scheme means that private income from "Green Fund" investments (including renewable energy) is not taxed. Green Fund investors can therefore get a good return on their investment at a lower interest rate. This, in turn, enables the Green Fund to lend finance to "green" projects at lower rates.

Green Funds are supervised by the Dutch Central Bank which is obliged to invest at least 70 percent of its capital in "green" projects. To qualify for green funding, a project must be located in the Netherlands, and have a minimum value of NLG50 000 (US$1 = NLG1.7). Energy projects that fall under green funding are:

o energy from wood and energy crops;

o wind turbines;

o photovoltaic cells;

o solar collectors;

o geothermal energy;

o hydro-power;

o heat pumps;

o heat/cold storage; and

o district heating.

To date, several banks have established Green Funds and more will follow soon. The public has invested NLG900 million at an average interest rate of about 4 percent, and the funds have begun acquiring green projects. More than 50 projects are currently green funded, mostly in the fields of wind energy and district heating.

The other three measures introduced are VAMIL (Accelerated Depreciation on Environmental Investments Scheme), Regulating Energy Tax , and Green Electricity. (Source: CADDETT -- Renewable Energy Newsletter, September 1996.)

For more information, please contact:

P.O. Box 17, 6130 AA Sittard,
The Netherlands
Fax: +31-464-528260

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One of the five major priority areas of SIDA's new energy policy is Legislation. SIDA supports the development of legislation and other regulatory systems as well as the training of decision-makers and administrators. The development of the energy sector should be based on market principles, taking environmental aspects into account.

The other four priority areas are: Institutional Capacity Building, Energy Efficiency, Use of Renewable Energy and Target Groups. (Source: Renewable Energy for Development [newsletter of the Energy, Environment and Development Programme of the Stockholm Environment Institute], September 1996.)

For more information, please contact:

Ann Jennervik, SIDA, INEC/Enetel, S-105 Stockholm, Sweden
Fax: +46-8-204731

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A new plant for manufacturing bio-pellets with high density and a low dust content is successfully running in Vestmarka, Norway. The plant uses a steam-explosion technique to produce the pellets. With this technique, sawdust and wood chips are treated with high-pressure steam to give a pulp in which the cellulose and lignin are freed. Lignin acts as a binding agent in the pellets when the wood pulp is dried and pelletized. The pellets are compressed to a volume weight of 750-800 kg/m3. The energy content is 4 800kWh/tonne - equal to five times that of unprocessed sawdust, and half the same energy content by weight as oil. The bio-pellets have a typical moisture content of 10 percent, and are sized 6 or 8 mm in diameter. Thus, they are firmer than conventional pellets, resulting in less dust and easier handling and storage. The production capacity is estimated to be 20 000 t/year and the plant is expected to be in full production later this year. Within a year the capacity will be increased to 40 000 t/year. (Source: CADDETT -- Renewable Energy Newsletter, June 1996.)

For more information, please contact:

KanEnergi AS,
Baerumsv 473, N-1351 Rud, Norway
Fax: +47-67-150250

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Wood-based energy, including energy recovered from black liquor, accounts for 15 percent of the total energy consumption in Finland, one of the highest proportions among the industrialized countries. The largest producer and user of wood-based energy is the forestry industry which gets its wood-based fuels at a competitive price in connection with raw material procurement or as by-products of processing. A central goal in Finnish bioenergy research is to develop methods and techniques enabling the significant untapped wood fuel potential to be produced at a competitive price. Earlier R&D work was instrumental in bringing the price of peat down to a level where it is competitive with fossil fuels. Current work has demonstrated that wood fuel can become an equally competitive option in energy production. (Source: Growing Power, Bioenergy Technology from Finland [a TEKES newsletter].)

For more information, please contact:

TEKES (Technology Development Centre, Finland)
P.O. Box 69, FIN-00101 Helsinki, Finland
Fax: +358-9-6949196

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The Quebec experience with substitution fuel, specifically propane and natural gas, dates back to the early 1980s. At that time, the National Energy Programme of Canada made the adaptation of certain commercial vehicles to natural gas and propane economically attractive.

Recently, some private initiatives aimed at promoting the use of ethanol fuel have been launched, reviving the interest, among concerned people, for substitution fuels.

Today there are 6 000 vehicles running on propane (out of 145 000 in the whole of Canada) and 5 400 running on natural gas (38 000 in all Canada). Gasoline containing 5 percent ethanol is now available at approximately one hundred gas stations in Quebec.

Consumption of non-conventional fuels in Quebec is still less than 1 percent of the total energy consumption of the transport sector. However, Quebec is an interesting potential market for substitution fuels due to the great number of vehicles circulating in the province.

Given the increased environmental concern of the governments, substitution fuels offer a serious alternative in the formulation of policies for the energy, environment and transport sectors. In fact, the role of substitution fuels has changed during the last decade: from initially being a way to increase the country's energy security, to now being environmentally-friendly. The environmental evaluation of substitution fuels still remains a challenging field for research. From the methodology side, this evaluation must take into account the full cycle from production to fuel combustion. Such an approach would show, for example, that ethanol produced from maize does not generate a positive environmental balance; however, if it were produced from forest biomass its utilization would be three times less polluting than that of gasoline.

If governments can see that alternative fuels offer a promising solution to environmental problems, and users find that these fuels are econmically advantageous, it would be a way to reduce their costs in both the short and long term. Therefore, any recommendation to convert vehicles, or to buy new vehicles running on alternative fuels, would have to be economically sound in order to be adopted.

The most important factor determining the economic interest of the substitution fuels is the difference in their price from that of gasoline. In Quebec, more than in other provinces, the difference between these prices is not great, and certainly not great enough to encourage a massive conversion of the target vehicles (government vehicles, city and school buses, taxis, etc.) to propane or natural gas. Other factors have contributed to slowing down the adoption of alternative fuels, such as the relatively high costs of the conversion, the skepticism of the public, the uncertainty of future fuel prices, and the limited autonomy of the converted vehicles.

In Canada, the provinces where there has been a high rate of conversion of vehicles to alternative fuels (Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia) are those which have adopted fiscal incentives to increase the attractiveness of alternative fuels.

As far as ethanol is concerned, its development in the transport sector is faced with a major obstacle: its production cost from maize is still too high, double that of the price of gasoline. The future of ethanol-fuel depends on the progress which will be made in its production techniques.

In the medium- and long-term, it will be technological innovation which will give substitution fuels the most durable progress. However, this innovation will have to involve the fuels, the equipment and the vehicles. To this end, for the past few years Quebec has been supporting the Energy Technology Aid Programme, under which there are various ongoing research projects: new types of fuel reservoirs for natural gas in the vehicles; production techniques for ethanol from forest biomass; hydrogen production from electrolysis; and hydrogen stockage by absorption. (Source: Liaison Energie-Francophonie, N 29/4ème Trimestre 1995.)

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The United Nations University (UNU) is undertaking a zero emissions research initiative endeavouring to use the full biomass. The UNU is guided by the motto: "Man cannot expect the earth to produce more, but mankind must do more with what the earth produces". UNU is preparing a large pilot project in Indonesia for the full use of the biomass of the palm oil plantation.

For more information, please contact:

Mr Gunter Pauli, Founder, Zero Emissions Research Initiative, United Nations University, Shibuya-ku Tokyo 150, Japan
Fax: +81-3-5467-1247

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The Energy Environment and Women Newsletter (ENERGIA) is a new publication to be distributed to field projects, organizations, or individuals interested in and/or working with energy and environmental activities as related to women and gender. It is a first step towards promoting networking activities. The aims of the network are:

o link interested individuals and organizations, including women and men and from both northern and southern countries;

o generate good, relevant case studies and impact studies, especially in areas where women's roles are not well recognized as yet; and

o catalyze and support gender and energy activities in existing institutions and energy programmes.

(Source: Druk Forestry News, Issue No. 13, October 1996.)

For more information, please contact

ENERGIA Newsletter, Energy Environment and Women Network, c/o TOOL
Sarphatistraat 650, 1018 AV Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

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Despite technological and economic advances, renewable energy sources held steady at about a seven percent share of total US energy consumption throughout the early 1990's and continue to face strong competition from conventional energy sources, according to a new Energy Information Administration report. Renewable energy sources play a larger role in non-utility generation of electricity, where they account for about 25 percent of the electricity generated.

The EIA released these findings and other key information on the current status and prospects for future development of biomass (wood, municipal solid waste, and liquid fuels), geothermal, wind, and solar resources in early February in the Renewable Energy Annual 1995, its first comprehensive report on renewable energy. The Renewable Energy Annual 1995 is the first in an expected series of annual reports the EIA intends to publish to provide a comprehensive assessment of renewable energy. Copies are available from the US Government Printing Office or through the National Energy Information Center, Room 1F-048 Forrestal Building, Washington, DC, USA. The report is also available through the Energy Information Administration's Web site: Please contactfor more information about AWEA membership and publications. (Source: An electronic edition of the newsletter Wind Energy Weekly of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)).

For more information, please contact Mark Gielecki, Project Coordinator
Tel: +1-202-426-1141

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Trees contaminated by radio-activity from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster are to be burnt to produce electricity. Scientists from the USA and Belarus are planning the construction of a power plant fuelled by timber from around the crippled reactor. They claim this is the best way of cleaning up the area.

The two-year project will cost US$1.6 million, and will be financed by the US Department of Energy and the Government of Belarus. It will be directed by scientists from Sandia National Laboratories, California, USA, the Belarussian Institute for Power Engineering Problems in Sosny, and Wheelabrator Environmental Systems, New Hampshire, USA. The pilot plant's precise location has yet to be decided.

Belarus imports 90 percent of its fuel and electricity, so local sources of energy are badly needed. "Biomass-derived power is ideally suited to their society," says Larry Baxter, a chemical engineer at Sandia National Laboratories. Baxter predicts that biomass power stations could decontaminate Belarus's forests within 40 years, compared to the centuries it would take for the radioactivity to decay naturally to acceptable levels. "If nothing is done with the forests," he says, "they will eventually burn in a forest fire, releasing large quantities of the radionuclides with no clean up at all." The area around Chernobyl has already suffered several forest fires since 1986.

"The plan is to replant the forests as they are harvested,"says Baxter. This will be done, he insists, in a manner that protects watersheds and promotes regrowth. (Source: New Scientist, 26 October 1996.)

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A National Workshop: Integrating Woodfuel Production and Marketing in Forest, Agriculture and Tree Production, took place from 4-17 October 1996 in Phrae Province, Thailand. The issues of wood fuel production and marketing were addressed through class-room lectures and case studies, presented by a number of experienced resource persons from different agencies. Among others, the issue of wood fuel production in non-forest areas was discussed, as well as the market and marketing of wood fuels, and woodfuel/biomass based industrial/commercial activities in Thailand.

For more information please contact:
Dr W. Hulscher, Chief Technical Adviser, GCP/RAS/154/NET
c/o FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Maliwan Mansion
Phra Atit Road, Bangkok, Thailand
Fax: +66-2-280-0760

International Symposium on Biofuel and Industrial Products from Jatropha Curcas and other Tropical Oil Seed Plants, Managua, Nicaragua, 23-27 February 1997
Contact: Georg M. Gubitz, Keil Congress Service, Graz, Austria.
E-mail: or

The World Sustainable Energy Trade Fair, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 27-29 May 1997.
Contact: The World Sustainable Energy Trade Fair
6th Floor, 22-26 Albert Embankment, London, SE1 7TJ, England
Fax: +44-171-7938007

International Conference on Sustainable Agriculture for Food, Energy and Industry, Braunschweig, Germany, 22-28 June 1997.
Contact: Conference Secretariat, Federal Agricultural Research Centre (FAL), Institute of Crop Science
Budesallee 50, D-38116 Braunschweig, Germany
Fax: +49-531-596365
URL: http/

Third Biomass Conference of the Americas, Montréal, Quebec, Canada, 24-29 August 1997.
Contact: Ms Joan Ross, Conference Executive Secretary, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Center for Renewable Chemical Technologies and Materials
1617 Cole Bldv., Golden, Colorado, USA 80401-3393
Fax: +1-303-2752905

International Energy Agency Workshop on Biotechnology for the Conversion of Lignocellulosies and Fifth Brazilian Symposium on the Chemistry of Lignin and Other Wood Components, Paraná, Brazil, 31 August - 4 September 1997.
Contact: Dr Jack Saddler, IEA Activity Leader, Forest Products Biotechnology, The University of British Columbia
2357 Main Mall, Vancouver BC, Canada
Fax: +1-604-2223267
Dr Luiz Pereira Ramos, Meeting Organizer, Federal University of Paraná, Chem. Dept.
P.O. Box 19070, Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil 81531-990

Biomass for Energy and Industry 10th European Conference and Technology Exhibition, Würzburg, Germany, 8-11 June 1998.
Contact: CARMEN eV
Technologiepark 13, D-97222 Rimpar bei Würzburg, Germany
Fax: +49-9365-806955

World Renewable Energy Congress - V, Florence, Italy, 20-25 September 1998
Contact: Prof. Ali Sayich, Congress Chairman
147 Hilmanton, Lower Earley, Reading RG6 4HN, UK
Fax: +44-(01734) 611365

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IEA Bioenergy:
Alternative Energy and Fuels:
Zero Emission Oil Palm Plantation Project:

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The World Bank. 1996. Rural Energy and Development - Improving Energy Supplies for Two Billion People. Development in Practice, Washington, D.C.
Westhoff, B. & Germann D. 1995 Foyers en Images - Une documentation sur les foyers améliorés et traditionnels en Afique, Asie et Amérique Latine. Commission des Communautés Européenes, Bruxelles, Belgique/SfE Sozietät für Entwicklungsplanung GmbH, Frankfurt am Main, Allemagne.
Rotstein, J. 1996. Brazil in the 21st Century. Editora Espaco e Tempo Ltda., Av. Franklin Roosevelt, 39-805 CEP: 20021-120, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil;
Tel/Fax: +55-21-262-2669

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