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Journal of Energy in Southern Africa

On-line version ISSN 2413-3051
Print version ISSN 1021-447X

J. energy South. Afr. vol.20 n.2 Cape Town  2009


Good for people can be good for business: The convergence of opportunities for delivering basic energy to low-income households in developing countries



Marlett BalmerI; David HancockII

IPhD candidate, Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology, University of Pretoria
IIProgramme Manager for Biomass Energy Conservation (ProBEC) Programme




Energy poverty affects more than 40% of the world's population. Fuels and appliances used by low-income groups have been of low-quality, expensive, non-durable and have posed serious health and safety risks to users. Energy transition theories, most noteably the energy ladder model, have postulated a gradual but complete move away from traditional, mostly biomass energy sources towards modern energy sources. Evidence however, increasingly indicates that the process did not happen as anticipated. This paper argues that energy transition from biomass fuels to full electricity use will not take place in SADC countries due to economic circumstances, increases in commercial fuel prices and the deficit in power generation capacity in the region. It further argues that wood fuel, traditionally regarded as a lower order fuel, is actually a renewable energy source that can meet the energy needs of rural people sustainably, if managed correctly. The paper suggests a re-evaluation of the value of wood fuel - from a low value fuel associated with poverty and degradation to a high value, renewable energy fuel, supplying much needed energy in a potentially sustainable manner. The paper outlines a convergence of a number of external conditions and opportunities which may alter household energy supply, making it possible for households to benefit from high quality, small quantities of electricity for lighting and communication purposes and extremely high quality, affordable appliances utilising biomass energy sources to supply thermal energy requirements.

Keywords: household energy, biomass energy, energy efficient appliances



Full text available only in PDF format.




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Received 1 September 2008
Revised 13 May 2009

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