Bioenergy sustainability in Ethiopia and Kenya – results of GSI measurement

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has recently finalised the project “Building Capacity for Enhancing Bioenergy Sustainability Through the Use of GBEP Indicators” in Kenya and Ethiopia. The project – financed by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) – focused on two priority bioenergy pathways in each country, carefully selected in order to align with the development objectives of each country.

The importance of solid biomass

While considerable investments and projects have been implemented in Africa during recent decades for the development of renewable energy, an important percentage of its population still relies on biomass for heat and cooking. In Ethiopia, biomass energy sources account for 91 percent of final energy consumption (UNEP, 2019), while in Kenya they represent 76 percent of the national energy mix (Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, 2018).

The importance of solid biomass (or woodfuel) in both countries was reflected in the choice of bioenergy pathways, with both countries choosing to measure the indicators for these sectors: in Ethiopia, solid biomass (charcoal, firewood) used in improved cookstoves for heating and cooking; and in Kenya, household use of charcoal produced on woodlands and farmlands.

Alternative bioenergy pathways

In Ethiopia, biogas produced from animal dung and used by households for cooking and heating was also a priority pathway. Ethiopia has a large livestock production and around 40 percent of animal dung is accessible. In addition, previous programs have already been launched in the country aiming to develop biogas production, and it is estimated that from a total of 22 166 biodigesters distributed in 2008, 77 percent are still functioning (UNEP, 2019). Furthermore, in 2013 the government launched the National Improved Cookstoves Program, whose objectives include the distribution of more than 11 million improved cookstoves, 31 400 improved biogas systems and 20 000 household biofuel stoves by the year 2030.

In Kenya, the second bioenergy pathway focuses on the use of sugarcane bagasse briquettes in the tea industry as an alternative to firewood. According to UNEP, the demand for firewood for use in the tea industry is around 1 million tonnes each year, while 12 sugar mills generate 2.4 million tons of bagasse annually that remain unutilized and represent a potential energy source for the tea industry.  Furthermore, modern bioenergy through solid biomass for use in industry is not common in the sub-Saharan Africa, therefore, developing its use might open new markets, leading to job creation, improved livelihoods and health conditions.

Continuous monitoring

The implementation of the indicators in both countries may inform policymakers about the areas to focus on to move toward achieving modern bioenergy.

However, this work is just a starting point for increasing the sustainability of the bioenergy sector in Ethiopia and Kenya. By establishing benchmarks, it is hoped the national governments will continue to engage in a regular process of assessing the evolution of the sector. Through continuous reporting, results from the indicator calculations will help to inform decision makers as to the direction of national bioenergy policies with the ultimate goal of achieving sustainability of the nations’ bioenergy sector.

The full technical reports, as well as the summary documents, can be found online.