Ghana is a country that uses dirty fuels
Energy-poor households are those that use biomass such as wood, animal dung, grass, and charcoal. Non-energy-poor families use electricity or liquefied petrol gas (LPG).
Only 25% of Ghanaian homes had access to clean cooking energy in 2018, according to the International Energy Agency.
Underdevelopment is caused and exacerbated by the lack of modern energy in households.
In our study, we sought to identify the factors that affect household energy consumption for domestic purposes. This included lighting and cooking. In addition, we observed that households were deprived of access to modern energy sources.
We found rural households to be more deprived than their counterparts in the cities. The situation has also improved over the past 20 years. The research indicates that between 2003 and 2014, the level of energy poverty declined steadily from severe to moderate. Our study showed that there had been major improvements in the reduction of lighting deprivation, i.e., access to electricity.
These were the questions that we wanted to answer. What are the main reasons why a household chooses a particular fuel to cook or light? What are the adoption and use patterns for clean fuels versus dirty fuels? What energy options could Ghana explore?
Fuel use in Ghana
Ghana’s Ministry of Energy has estimated that 66% of Ghanaians have access to electricity.
Most Ghanaian homes still rely on biomass fuels, primarily wood fuels and coal, to meet their household needs. According to government statistics, the use of biomass fuels in Ghana is slightly higher than 60%. Around 80% of Ghanaian households rely on wood fuels for cooking (firewood, charcoal, and other biomass).
Our study, which aimed to understand better the choices that people make and their motivations, found that households use cleaner fuels when lighting up than they do when cooking. Nearly 80% use dirty fuels for cooking – such as wood, charcoal, and animal dung. 71% switch to clean fuels for lighting, like electricity or generators.
Ghanaian households rely heavily on biomass as a source of energy. The majority of the biomass is produced in traditional earth kilns.
This has a number of problems. The charcoal produced is highly polluting. The process produces high levels of emissions. The conversion of wood to charcoal is inefficient.
There are many solutions.
There are several other types of kiln technologies. Retort and portable kilns, for example, have the benefit of being easily transportable to the source. The carbonization cycle is also shorter.
Briquettes can be made from biomass waste. Biomass waste technologies reduce emissions in two ways. They do this by reducing the amount of wood used and by reducing the amount of methane released from the inorganic breakdown of organic matter.
Solar energy technology could be used to help solve the energy problems of households. Ghana has a lot of sunshine. Solar energy technologies can help households switch to clean fuels.
Wind energy can also be used to meet household energy needs. Waste-to-energy technology is also emerging, which uses solid wastes to produce energy.
Our findings have led us to make several recommendations that would allow all Ghanaian homes to get access to modern fuels that are eco-friendly.
The policies should focus on providing cleaner and more efficient energy for households. The government could, for example, consider subsidizing LPG use in households and distributing liquefied petrol gas cylinders free of charge. Subsidies could encourage more households to use cleaner fuels. In turn, this could reduce costs related to public health as fewer people will get sick due to the use of dirty fossil fuels.
Diverse energy technologies should be pursued (wind, tidal and solar, improved stoves for cooking, and improved biomass production).
To achieve these goals, the government must develop a policy that integrates sectors like forestry, agricultural, land use, and energy, as well as trade, finance, and trade.
Public-private partnerships can also be used to harness technologies for the sustainable production of fuels. This is especially true with charcoal, as it is the fuel that urban households and a large majority use.