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Charcoal, kerosene still major light source in urban areas

20th December 2011
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A seller transports charcoal to Dar es Salaam where over 22,000 sachets of the energy source are used for cooking and lighting daily. (File photo)

Despite the steady rates of both economy and income per capita growth, charcoal and kerosene remain the primary sources of energy for lighting and cooking in urban households, according to a study by Research on Poverty Alleviation (Repoa).

The study, which was conducted by Emmanuel Maliti and Dr Raymond Mnenwa, is the result of an analysis of the 2007 Household budget data to assess household energy expenditures in Tanzania and the extent to which energy sources are affordable for the urban poor.

For the purposes of the study, poor households have been referred to all households whose total income falls below the poverty line.

The report which was released on mid last week shows that charcoal is the single most important source of energy in urban areas. The modern sources of energy such as electricity account for the lowest share of the household energy budget, with households spending the minimum on electricity while spending more on cheaper sources of energy such as charcoal, the study said.

Significant regional disparities exist for firewood and electricity, but less so in the case of charcoal. Households’ dependence on charcoal in Dar es Salaam is very similar to other regions.

“Although the study shows that electricity is still unattainable for the majority of the urban poor, the cost is only getting higher giving limited hope on moving away from traditional biomass sources of energy,” Maliti, a researcher and grant recipient of Repoa, said.

The findings come amid power rationing and regular price hikes by Tanzania electric supply company (Tanesco) which has further limited poor people’s access to electricity.

In fact electricity remains out of poor households’ financial reach, with the urban poor’s purchasing power only accounting for 61 percent of the cost of electricity, the study said.

Furthermore, the study found out that about the same proportion of income is spent on energy for both the poor and the non-poor.

“When we began the study, the assumption was that the poor spend a larger percentage of their income on energy,” he said.

Charcoal was found to be the single most important source of energy for both poor and non-poor households, accounting for 57 percent of household energy expenditures.

The report shows that the share of charcoal within total energy expenditure is higher for non-poor households (59 percent) than poor households (41 percent), implying that charcoal is an important energy source not only for the poor but also for non-poor households.

It recommended provision of tax relief on appliances related to the use of electricity as well as support for investment in R&D in converting farm residuals that would ordinarily go to waste into energy producing materials.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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