Fighting rampant deforestation at the root of the problem.

 Inspecting a jatropha tree, the seeds from which can be used to manufacture bio-fuel

Inspecting a jatropha tree, the seeds from which can be used to manufacture bio-fuel

We are improving access to energy in rural East Africa by researching, developing, evaluating, and disseminating appropriate renewable energy sources and technologies. Activities of the Renewable Energy Development Program include:

  • Identify and research alternative energy sources in the region.
  • Implement and evaluate pilot projects.
  • Disseminate successful energy sources and associated technologies.
  • Specify fields of action and specific opportunities in rural energy policy.

East Africa is endowed with diverse energy resources (including biomass, natural gas, hydro, coal, geothermal, solar, wind, and uranium), many of which are untapped. Despite this, Tanzania’s level of per capita electrical consumption, approximately 85kWh, is one of the lowest levels in the world, significantly lower than the sub-Saharan average of 124 kWh. This is due to extremely low access to grid electricity in Tanzania, which minimizes the availability of modern energy services for households and businesses. Only about 12% of the total population — and just 1% of the rural population — can make use of the grid. (Total installed generation capacity is 1219 MW, of which hydropower provides 561 MW and thermal 658 MW.) Due to this limited access to grid electricity, most of the population relies on biomass-based fuel for energy, a pattern observed in most developing countries.

 Donkeys carry a haul of firewood which represents the main source of energy in East Africa

Donkeys carry a haul of firewood which represents the main source of energy in East Africa

In Tanzania, biomass-based fuels, primarily wood fuel and charcoal, account for about 90% of the total national energy consumption. Commercial electricity accounts for 2% and petroleum 8%. In East Africa, trees are the main source of biomass-based fuels. The extensive use of wood fuel for energy and the clearance of land for agriculture have resulted in the high rates of deforestation discussed previously, leading to significant reductions in forest cover. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has estimated deforestation rates of 412,000ha per year since 1990 in Tanzania. In 2005, this deforestation rate translated to an annual loss of forest stock of 1.2%. This results in Tanzania being ranked globally at 6th and 3rd in Africa in terms of annual net loss of forest. Because the forest areas are being harvested faster than regeneration rates, wood fuel in the East Africa context cannot be classified as renewable energy.

Reducing the reliance on wood fuel energy will protect forests, promote sustainable resource use, and protect biodiversity and economic sectors relying on forest resources.