The “rural energy crisis” is increasingly being addressed by development policy because it affects the survival of the vast majority of the world’s population who live in rural areas in developing countries, and is also closely related to the overall concept of sustainable development. However, the connections between rural energy and sustainable development must be understood in the overall context of the energy situation in developing countries. This also fits very well with SDG 7 of the 2030 Agenda as an essential and indispensable strategy to achieve the same.
The core message to politicians is: Give wood energy a fair chance in your country’s energy mix to make the world more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Deviating from the traditional classification of energy as a fuel source, which hides many development problems, Sri Lanka’s energy needs can be broadly divided into two main energy groups: (1) Centralized commercial energy consisting of electricity, fossil fuels and commercial renewable energy sources (2) Decentralized non-commercial energy, which consists mainly of biomass and other indigenous energy resources.
According to the Sustainable Energy Authority (SEA), the largest share of energy demand in Sri Lanka in 2018 with 46.2% consists of biomass, followed by 41% crude oil and 12.3% electricity (energy balance 2018). Biomass is also the main energy source in households and industry with 64.9% and 74.7% respectively, which underlines its importance as the lifeline of the rural sector with 81% of the total population and the industrial sector.
It is evident that the burden of meeting the energy needs of Group 1 was not borne by the government, but by the rural people themselves, led by women, to ensure the livelihoods of the rural people for whom the government does not Has shown appreciation or any interest. The everyday fact is that 191.4 PJ of energy, that is 46.2% of the energy mix, was never an object of the planning of the energy sector. The decisive factor should not be the type of energy carrier or fuel, but the energy service provided, i.e. the heat, light, mechanical and digital energy requirements.
While the energy sector should be congratulated for being 100 percent electrified in Sri Lanka, which is a remarkable achievement, the ministries’ current portfolios in the energy sector focus only on developing solar, wind and hydropower generation projects for petroleum, electricity and renewables . The main source of non-commercial biomass is overlooked. It is also observed that the term energy has been violated by identifying petroleum under the Department of Energy, which is a misnomer that can lead to contradictions in political matters as the term energy encompasses all energy resources.
The energy sector has 699 billion rupees in foreign exchange, nearly 32% of export revenue, and huge expenditures on maintaining a strong organizational infrastructure to meet commercial energy needs while neglecting the non-commercial energy needs of the rural and rural poor.
This biomass reliance trend has prevailed over the past four decades and is likely to continue given the current inequality of income distribution as the affordability of modern fuels to the poor will not be a reality in the near future. This is shown by the fact that 30% of the poorest receive 9%, the middle 40% 29% and the richest 30% 62% of the national income (data from the central bank 2017). A World Bank study found that, given LPG prices today, regular LPG users would likely need a monthly household income of more than $ 350 and at least $ 15 per month.
The role of liquefied gas in saving energy https://openknowledge.worldbank.org ›)
Still, the government’s focus on biomass energy is currently lacking, particularly due to the need for a strong focus on modern fuels for the country’s development is due to the decentralized and non-commercial nature of uncoordinated informal activities with a multitude of actors in the non-energy sector with a multitude of goals that are not directly related to energy, not visible. Biomass energy is really not generated by the energy sector, but a by-product of forest, agricultural and plantation activities that are not their primary goal, so biomass is not a baby.
It is observed that this complication of the uncoordinated, informal relationships and lack of government resilience that have contributed to the lack of governance in the energy sector in Sri Lanka has further isolated the rural low-income sector to find its own solutions for survival . Not knowing about inexpensive, improved biomass solutions has led to a scenario where biomass energy is negatively perceived and has a detrimental impact on sustainable development. It is totally unwelcome to see that there is no proper mechanism for managing the indigenous energy resources that still serve as Sri Lanka’s energy backbone.
The negative image of biomass tends to be associated with deforestation, underdevelopment of climate change, poverty and negative health effects. This image steers policymakers towards replacing biomass with other fuels rather than improving the sustainability of the sector with integrated and holistic approaches.
Despite the focus on alternatives, it is unlikely that biomass use will decline in absolute terms in the coming decades. There is no evidence that the use of firewood contributes to deforestation. The four main reasons for deforestation in Sri Lanka are encroachment from agriculture, gem mining and settlements, infrastructure development projects, commercial farming companies and several local drivers such as pasture, cardamom cultivation and forest fires. (Kariyawasam, Ravindra and Chinthka Rajapakse).
Despite the fact that firewood is underestimated and ridiculed as a primitive fuel, the use of firewood by the majority of the Sri Lankan population has not detrimentally affected the well-being of Sri Lanka, but has contributed to the fact that many development indicators are achieved in moderation compared to many countries with middle income. For example, according to the world rankings, Sri Lanka’s rankings are Human Development Index 71, Health 48, Social Capital 33, Wealth 84, and Education 62. In addition, a Sri Lankan-born woman can live to be 80.1 years old (despite firewood for cooking) in contrast to 79 years in America). Infant deaths / 1000 in Sri Lanka is six, America is six and India is 27.
In the name of good governance and justice, it is high time that the Department of Energy and Renewable Energy (Sustainable Energy Authority) take action to avoid an impending disaster in the near future, as the provision of biomass and the use of biomass in an informal manner Form is allowed to proceed without government contributions that not only create social instability but also hinder efforts to achieve sustainable development goals.
The government has the ability to facilitate the availability of supplies, provide low-cost technology support for efficient use by improving access to ventilation and efficient use through improved stoves, and mitigating negative health and climate effects, as claimed by the international community . Almost eight million tons of firewood are needed annually for cooking and for living, and four million tons of firewood for industry. Each house would need almost two tons / year. To achieve this goal, it would be necessary to coordinate and integrate the various stakeholder activities that are already providing informal support in an informal way.
Although the negative perception of biomass energy is widespread, biomass is not necessarily an unsustainable or backward fuel. Sustainability depends on the practices used in the value chain; B. Forest management techniques and the efficiency of conversion and use. These widespread misconceptions tend to link biomass fuels to deforestation, indoor air pollution, and underdevelopment. (Energy initiative of the European Union and GIZ, Germany). http://www.euei-pdf.org/fr/node/3880.
On behalf of governance in the energy sector in Sri Lanka, the aim of this article is to ask the Sustainable Energy Authority, which has received the mandate to promote renewable energy (not just commercial energy), to take the lead and initiative to help relevant stakeholders , Donors, NGOs for an advisory meeting to identify stakeholders and overarching activities, links and capacities and to raise awareness of the importance of sustainable energy interventions in rural areas that require the formation of a network of organizations to be set up under the local government ministry , which is supported by the Sustainable Energy Agency, which consists of employees specially dedicated to the development of biomass energy.
Managing Director, Association for Integrated Development (IDEA)
Energy Advisor to Former Minister of Local Government Admiral Sarath Weerasekara
Project manager, National Firewood Conservation Program
Electrical engineer (alternative energy development unit, CEB)
Retired Director, Sustainable Energy Agency
Short term advisor to UNDP (Sudan), World Bank and FAO
Recipient of the very first Sri Lanka Energy Efficiency Award (2015), presented by SE the President
to bring sustainable energy solutions to people
Recipient of the Mohan Munasingha Award (1985) for energy saving measures
Nominated for the World Clean Energy Award (2007)