Household Energy In Afghanistan

Fuel options and use patterns

It is estimated that only 6 to 10% of all households in Afghanistan have access to electricity, most of them in the urban areas of larger cities like Kabul, Herat, Jalalabad and other. In the rural areas, the majority of the people rely on non-renewable biomass fuels – traditional fuels cover about 85% of the energy demand- for heating their homes and preparing their meals.

Out of a variety of fuels available, firewood, bush and animal dung is used most widely. To a lesser extent, coal dust or balls, propane gas, kerosene, petroleum and diesel supply different devices for different occasions.

Bukhari, tandoor and picnic are words known to every Afghan, independently of living in a city or a village. A bukhari is a steel or aluminium stove, mounted with an exhaust pipe through the house wall. It is fired by firewood, bushes or animal dung or sometimes a mixture of it. Seldom, also liquid fuels like diesel or kerosene is used with the appropriate stove tank or saw dust. The tandoor, the traditional na’n bakery- oven, is found in almost every rural household. Additionally, bakeries produce the typical Afghan bred na’n in cities and villages alike. Made of bricks or earth, or often even only a dig in the ground, the tandoor is fired with bush and firewood or coal and animal dung. A picnic suggests the preference of Afghan men and women to spend their free time outside in the garden or at a lake; while this is certainly true, a picnic refers in this case more to a propane gas bottle with burning equipment to prepare meals for doing so.

These techniques of preparing food, besides heating issues and electricity, show the main challenges in household energy in Afghanistan: the traditional ways of cooking cause deforestation, desertification, air pollution and health problems, coming along with economical and educational disadvantages.

Because of the long years of war, the absence of sufficient electricity supply and severe droughts, Afghanistan is today about to be totally deforestated. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), only 1 to 2% is still forested, which means a decrease of 33% since 1979 2002 . About 75% of the total land area falls today under the status of being desertificated, especially in the North, West and South.

Among the most serious impacts are health problems caused by indoor smoke. Particularly children are most vulnerable to lower respiratory infections. In addition, an average family uses 4 tons of firewood per year, which causes about 7 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year .
To be sick or to have sick children always means having costs additional to the purchase of fuel for the doctor to be paid. Even without this, the traditional way of cooking becomes more and more expensive: prices for fuel wood have risen from 2 to 6 AFA/kg from 2001 to 2006 .
The prices for animal dung and coal products, the mostly used and most expensive ones, have risen as well in the past years. A typical rural family spends today about 240 to 340 US Dollar per year only to cover their non- electric household energy demand. Taking into account an average salary of 50 to 100 US Dollar per month for a teacher or a policeman- and even less income for a subsistence farmer-, it is obvious that there is an almost unbearable imbalance in expenses to income, especially when one considers other household costs like for electricity, food, etc.

Background and activities of the GTZ Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Project

The GTZ Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Project in Afghanistan aims at addressing these problems through its institutional partner, the Department of Renewable Energy of the Ministry of Energy and Water. The cooperation’s objective is to implement activities in the field of solar, water, wind and bio energy. For this, GTZ advises the Department in technical, managerial and administrational questions and policy development. For the future it is planned to establish the Department as a focal point for any activity of local and international organisations and companies in the field of renewable energy and energy efficiency, where the Department will take the leading role in development, research, dissemination, quality control and strategy development.

Two GTZ advisors together with two colleagues from the German Development Service (DED) currently work in the following areas:
  • Solar cookers have been identified as being suitable for Afghanistan years before. Since 2006, GTZ actively supports development and dissemination. It began with the import of Butterfly cookers from China, since self- production of this type is still difficult due to lack of locally available material and machines. GTZ then supported one NGO and one private company in reproducing this model in workshops in Afghanistan. Over 200 of the “copies” have since then been distributed for testing purposes, but technical development is still in progress. As an alternative, parabolic cookers made of concrete have been introduced. The model originates from Tibet, where GTZ made positive experiences with them. This solar cooker is especially suitable for rural areas, as it can be produced locally and almost all materials are available even in small district capitals in the provinces. In Faizabad in the Northeast province of Badakhshan, one small business is now about to be set up through two local workers who have been trained in the production by GTZ. Moreover, different models of solar cookers are currently being tested for technical, economical and social suitability in Afghanistan. An acceptance- survey of already distributed cookers is ongoing. Possibilities for self- production of butterfly- type- cookers are being assessed.
  • A solar lamps women’s workshop has been conducted from March 2006 until August 2007. 13 women have been trained in courses of solar energy, business management, Basic English and computer office software, out of whom successfully passed the final examinations. Apart from the theoretical knowledge, emphasis was laid on the practical teaching of how to build solar lanterns as well as small solar home. The overall purpose was to prepare the women to establish their own small business or to work in a private company, which was acknowledged by day-to-day work of accounting and balancing the workshop’s material stock and income and expenditures. The first outcome of this workshop is that two women have got a job within the Ministry of Energy and Water as trainers for solar energy. The Department wants now to take over responsibility and to carry on the production of solar lamps and home systems.
  • The produced small solar home systems, existing of four 12V- bulbs, one 5W PV- panel, load controller, one 3.6Ah- battery and a mobile phone charger, are inquired after in a huge amount, especially in the rural areas. The systems can provide 12 hours of light with four 1W- LED- bulbs and 9 hours of mobile phone charging with a 5W- charger and are virtually maintenance free for at least 15 years. In addition, GTZ cooperates with the Afghanistan National Solidarity Program (NSP) in the Badakhshan province, where at the moment about 300 systems of 20 and 40W- size are installed in small villages.
  • The systems as well as appropriate training in use and installation are distributed via the Renewable Energy Information Centres in Faizabad, Kabul and Taloqan. The centres are equipped with a variety of products of renewable energy technology like photovoltaic systems in different sizes, solar cookers, solar water heaters, energy efficient electrical appliances as well as information material. Special courses on RE and EE are offered for students and workers, organisations, governmental institutions and companies alike. While the centres in Kabul and Faizabad are already running, the Taloqan centre has just been renovated and will be open soon. In the future, the centres are supposed to function as a selling location for RE- products and as well for training and courses. The model aims at running the centres on a privately owned basis to foster commercialisation of environmental friendly products and technologies. Local and foreign companies working for example in solar energy, wind or water power are invited to commission their products to the centres and in this way to open new markets and reaching new customers. A “triple-win”- situation will be the outcome: the centres can be run self- sufficiently by their income, private companies extend their market appearance and the population will have greater access to renewable energy technologies and trainings.
  • Because “the cheapest energy is the energy you don’t use”, Energy Efficiency and Energy Saving play a major role throughout the project. In the centres, this issue is addressed by exhibiting energy inefficient electrical items and providing alternatives to them. The people’s awareness is raised by transmitting knowledge about energy consumption and corresponding energy costs of their daily appliances. In the house building sector, GTZ cooperates with GERES, a French NGO working in solar architecture and energy efficient building techniques. GERES advised the construction of the RE Centres in Kabul and Taloqan and gives trainings on thermal insulation and greenhouses through the centres. This cooperation is carried out under the umbrella of the Afghan- French- German Energy Initiative, born during the Renewables Conference in Bonn, Germany 2004.

André Moeller - Kabul, August 2007
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Last edited by Miriam Hansen , based on work by Grant Ballard-Tremeer .
Page last modified on Wednesday 13 of October, 2010 12:52:10 GMT. @HEDON: BUHB

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  • A practitioner's journal on household energy, stoves and poverty reduction.


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