Rational About Bio-energy
The economic development of modern societies is crucially dependent on energy and the energy consumption of a country reflects the state of its development. The current methods of energy production in the world are primarily dominated by the use of fossil fuels. These fossil fuels are largely responsible for global warming and the greenhouse effect, as they are accompanied by huge emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Reducing dependence on fossil fuel and shifting to renewable energy resources offers more environmental benefits than just a renewable source of energy being renewable. Bioenergy is one form of renewable energy made available from materials derived from biological sources. In its broader sense it includes biomass, the biological material, uses as a fuel, as well as social, economical, scientific and technical fields associated with using biological sources for energy. Biomass is any organic material which has stored solar energy in the form of chemical energy including photosynthesis in case of plants.
In Ethiopia energy sector depends heavily on biomass. According to Halcrow and MCE (2006) and Teknir (2007), about 73.2 percent of energy in the country comes from woody biomass, 15.5 percent from non-woody biomass (cow dung 8.4 percent, crop residue 6.4 percent, and biogas 0.4 percent), petrol fuels 10.3 percent and hydropower 1 percent. According to a recent energy demand projections by EEA (2010), biomass fuels will remain the dominant source of energy in the next two decades. The annual demand for electricity and petroleum fuels will grow by 11,6 percent and 9,3 percent respectively. Demand for energy will have serious economic, social and environmental implications and repercussions for environments and a rise in cost of oil. In response to these challenges, the country has set strategy for energy security and partial substitution of imported petroleum and, thereby, saving hard currency as priority policy goals (FDRE, 2007). It was during this period that the need to promote production of biofuels gained high attention and the first biofuel strategy was developed.
Biofuels were merited for their perceived economic and development potentials. As key pillar of sustainable development, the country has set a strategy of green economy, via the Climate-Resilient Green Economy strategy (CRGE, 2011). Included in the fourth pillar of the CRGE strategy are efforts toward decarbonizing transport fuel, as well as producing biodiesel and ethanol. The energy sector is also given due attention in two phases of growth and transformation plans (GTP I, GTP II, 2011-2019), which seeks to enable the country to reach middle-income status by 2025 (FDRE, 2010). The strategy is expected to play a major role in Ethiopia’s near-term growth, transforming the country into a “green economy front runner” while fostering development and sustainability. The energy policy, under the then Ministry of Mines and Energy followed by a recent proclamation set in January 2014 clearly shows the direction of the country from this respect. The Proclamation no. 810/2013, “The Energy Proclamation” set in January 2014, created the Ethiopian Energy Authority (EEA) with the mandate to regulate the electricity sector, and to improve energy efficiency and to carry out energy conservation. Component II of this proclamation clearly states the importance of “energy education” and “awareness” programs. Furthermore, in GTP II it is planned to establish five bio-fuel technology and research centers and intensify biofuel feedstocks production in the regional states. The preferred feedstocks for producing biodiesel in Ethiopia are Jatropha, castor and palm oil (FDRE, 2007). At the momentum the country is intensifying cultivation of biofuel crops; the production and utilization of biofuel is high.
Bioenergy offers the possibility of harnessing domestic, rural-based, low-carbon and sustainable energy sources in both industrialized and developing countries through modernizing the production and utilization technologies. Bioenergy can be modernized through the application of advanced technology to convert raw biomass into modem, easy-to-use energy carriers (such as electricity, liquid or gaseous fuels, or processed solid fuels). Therefore, much more useful energy could be extracted from biomass than at present. This could bring very significant social and economic benefits to both rural and urban areas. However, the long-run economic, social and ecological viability and sustainability of these bioenergy sources are still untested. For the development and recommendation of sustainable production and utilization system of renewable bioenergy sources in Ethiopia, exploring potential sources, feasibility and impact studies on socioeconomic, environmental and to ensure social well-being are essential. But concerted action is needed to develop sustainable bioenergy systems. Although developing countries including Ethiopia have in many cases, identified their biomass potential many of them still lack the professional, institutional policy and market competence to develop modern bioenergy systems. In this regard, national capacity-building has the highest priority and must be the first step towards improving bioenergy production, utilization and technologies.