Trees as a Global Source of Energy: from fuelwood and charcoal to pyrolysis-driven electricity generation and biofuels
Trees as a Global Source of Energy: from fuelwood and charcoal to pyrolysis-driven electricity generation and biofuelswca2014-2082 Philip Dobie 1,*Navin Sharma 2 1World Agroforestry Centre, Nairobi, Kenya, 2South Asia Programme, World Agroforestry Centre, Delhi, India
Future increased demand for energy worldwide must be based on renewable sources of energy to avoid catastrophic increases in atmospheric CO2 and to replace non-renewable sources of energy that have already passed their peak production. Trees can provide renewable biomass in the form of fuelwood, charcoal, pyrolysis-driven electricity production and biofuels. People’s access to energy is often referred to as “the missing Millennium Development Goal”, but energy is important for development and it is certain that energy access will be included in the post-2015 development agenda within a new set of Sustainable Development Goals. Unfortunately, current global policy initiatives to ensure universal access to sustainable energy essentially ignore the potential of tree-based bioenergy. This is because of partially-correct perceptions that wood fuels are associated with poverty and are polluting and dangerous, and to generally false assumptions about links between woodfuel use and environmental degradation. Problems associated with the use of tree biomass could be overcome relatively easily. There have been valid concerns that growing crops for bioenergy might compete for resources for food production. However, bioenergy provides farmers and land-users with new and important sources of income and fit well into integrated food-energy systems. Trees provide multiple benefits to agriculture, including soil fertility, water management, fruit production, fodder production, fuelwood and timber. Tree growing is eminently scaleable, suitable for large-scale production in woodlots and small-scale production on farms under agroforestry systems. Even where large scale processing of products is needed, such as the processing of biofuels or biomass production for community electricity generation, small-scale landowners can provide products for collection and bulking up, as currently happens in a number of agricultural value chains. An unprecedented global partnership is needed to ensure that renewable tree-based bioenergy plays its proper role in future global energy mixes.