While renewable energy is advancing rapidly in Africa due to consistent efforts and investment, biomass is still largely used on the continent. In addition to being of significant value to African economies, it is the single most important energy source for most households and some industries. However, high dependence on biomass, even with the development of improved equipment, contributes to deforestation, degradation of soil quality and reduced biodiversity. Biomass use in households is also an important source of indoor air pollution, which, according to the World Health Organization, kills 4 million people every year.
Urgent action is therefore required to address fuelwood use and management on the continent, where only 25 per cent of the population has access to clean fuels and energy for cooking. A recent desk study published jointly by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the African Union, Review of Woodfuel Biomass Production and Utilization in Africa, takes stock of the current situation and proposes policies and strategies for Member States to accelerate the transition to renewable energy sources.
UNEP and its partners promote the development of renewable sources of energy and energy efficiency as part of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative and climate mitigation effort. With the financial support from the International Climate Initiative, UNEP just concluded the Building capacity for enhancing bioenergy sustainability through the use of Global Bioenergy Partnership indicators project in Ethiopia and Kenya.
The project provides technical assistance to government officials and experts in Ethiopia and Kenya to assess the sustainability of their bioenergy sectors and to build their capacity for long-term, periodic monitoring. The project is structured around the application and interpretation of 24 indicators to assess the environmental, social and economic impacts of bioenergy production and use. Results from the indicators will be used to inform the decision-making process.
Energy consumption in Ethiopia was an estimated 42 million tonnes of oil equivalent in 2016. Biomass energy sources account for 91 per cent of final energy consumption and for 98 per cent of energy consumption in the residential sector. The Global Bioenergy Partnership project in Ethiopia examined the development of biogas and solid biomass (firewood and charcoal) production to understand how it can contribute to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals as well as to national development policies, such as the Climate Resilience Green Economy Strategy.