Biomass energy: optimising its contribution to poverty reduction and ecosystem services

Project
Archived
July 2010 to December 2011

This project aimed to develop a North-South-South partnership to reshape the impact of global biomass energy expansion.

Biomass energy makes up 77% of the world’s renewable energy - or 10% of the world’s total energy mix (3% in OECD and 22% in non-OECD countries). As a major and increasing component of land use, biomass energy systems therefore have significant impacts on both ecosystem services and poverty.

In the North, emerging opportunities for energy security through biomass are being developed fast. In the South, biomass energy is often viewed as 'inefficient and non-commercial', 'a health hazard', 'a cause of deforestation' or 'a poverty trap', often legislated to be 'illegal' as a result.

The International Energy Agency predicts that the share of biomass energy will treble from 10% to 30%of the global total by 2050 – with increases in both North and South. In order for increasing biomass energy use to have positive impacts on poverty reduction and ecosystem services, innovative interdisciplinary research is needed to map out transition pathways that optimise these impacts.

Background

This project aimed to develop, through its six objectives, a North-South-South partnership and project to reshape the impact of a predicted large-scale expansion in global biomass energy use towards greater poverty reduction and maintenance of ecosystem services in developing countries. The consortium of partners represented leading biomass energy researchers from multiple disciplines.

Together, a conceptual framework on biomass energy was planned to be designed with clear indicators for 'reshaping' impacts on poverty reduction and ecosystem services.

For example, in assessing the impact of future biomass energy use, it was planned to explore multi-disciplinary indicators and supply and demand factors: resource carrying capacities, demand by most needy for energy, security in access and supply, impact on food security, impact on land and resource rights, decency of work in its provision, broader social contributions, impact on ecosystem services (carbon, biodiversity and resilience, watersheds, landscape beauty) and enhancement of cultural identity. At a planning meeting, this framework and evidence of technological and economic projections for biomass energy was discussed.

Project objectives

This proposal targeted ESPA's forest theme, where the expected outcome is "enhanced contribution of forest ecosystem services to poor people's livelihoods and sustainable growth processes in the context of environmental and climate change".

The overarching objective of this proposal was to develop a world class interdisciplinary South-South-North research partnership and strategy that reshapes the impact of a predicted large-scale expansion in global biomass energy use towards greater poverty reduction and maintenance of ecosystem services in developing countries. In order of priority, the subsidiary objectives were as follows:

  1. Develop a relevant conceptual framework - by organising a South-South-North participatory planning meeting
  2. Establish sound natural resource, technological and economic projections in India, Kenya and Malawi as a baseline for promoting improved biomass impact
  3. Develop research plans, analysis tools and procedures
  4. Identify in partner countries specific political change agents, communications strategies and impact plans
  5. Evaluate innovative business and value chain models to test transition options towards increase biomass energy use, and
  6. Develop a full ESPA proposal with a strategy to fill knowledge and capacity gaps - by working together in an equitable North-South-South partnership.

Additional resources

Bearings for the biomass boom, Duncan J Macqueen (2011), Opinion paper

Bundles of energy: the case for renewable biomass energy, Duncan J Macqueen, Sibel Korhaliller (2010), Issue paper

Background reports

These reports form part of this project aiming to develop a South-South-North partnership to reshape the impact of a predicted large-scale expansion in global biomass energy use towards greater poverty reduction and maintenance of ecosystem services in developing countries.

Biomass energy – optimising its contribution to poverty reduction and ecosystem services: report of an international workshop, 19-21 October 2010, Parliament House Hotel, Edinburgh. IIED, London, UK

Biomass energy use in Malawi, Levison Chiwaula, Patrick Kambewa (2010), Report

Mugo, F. and Gathui, T. (2010) Biomass energy use in Kenya. A background paper prepared for the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) for an international ESPA workshop on biomass energy, 19-21 October 2010, Parliament House Hotel, Edinburgh. Practical Action, Nairobi, Kenya.

Mapping out global biomass projections, technological developments and policy innovations, Mairi Black, Goetz M. Richter (2010), Report 

Bioenergy in India, Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), (2010), Report

Donors

Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) programme of DFID, NERC and ESRC

Partners

The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), India

Centre for Development Management (CDM), Malawi

Chancellor College, University of Malawi

Practical Action (Kenya)

Practical Action Consulting (PAC)

University of East Anglia (UEA)

Imperial College, London

Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH)

Rothamstead Research (Rres)

Bioclimate

Ecometrica

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