Broader impacts of household energy
Household energy and poverty
Dependence on polluting and inefficient household fuels and appliances is both a cause and a result of poverty:
Poor households often do not have the resources to obtain cleaner, more efficient fuels and appliances. Conversely, reliance on simple household fuels and appliances holds back economic development, continuing a vicious cycle of poverty and reliance on polluting, inefficient fuels.
For example, households reliant on biomass fuels often spend many hours a day on fuel collection and thus have less time available for other essential tasks. Similarly, households with only limited access to lighting (e.g. fires, candles or simple lamps) lose opportunities for educational and income-generating activities outside of daylight hours.
In most developing countries, it is women who collect fuel and carry out household tasks. Women are therefore particularly affected by indoor smoke and the time loss due to simple fuel use. However, in many homes, men appear to have more decision-making power, and household energy needs may be given lower priority than women would wish.
The reliance on wood as fuel can put considerable pressure on forests, particularly in areas where wood fuel is scarce and the demand for wood outweighs natural re-growth.
Greenhouse gas emissions
Biomass stoves used in developing country homes typically have a low efficiency. As a result, a large percentage of the fuel energy is lost as products of incomplete combustion (PICs). These PICs include the gas methane which has a greenhouse effect many times greater than CO2.