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Policy options for the developing world's domestic energy supply : patterns and preferences in the Nigerian domestic sector Onyebuchi, Edward Ifeanyi


The main purpose of this study is to identify factors governing Nigerian households' fuel choices and preferences, and to explore the degree to which commonly proposed new energy technologies satisfy these needs and preferences. The primary research problem is that new energy technologies proposed for domestic use in Nigeria and other developing countries have proved to be unacceptable to households, despite the often cited virtues of alternatives such as biogas, solar cookers, and improved wood stoves. The need for this study is first demonstrated through a review of literature concerning energy in the developing world in general, and Nigeria in particular. The literature reveals that Nigeria's energy problems mirror those of other developing countries, including potential reliance on nontraditional, nonrenewable energy sources which are petroleum based, accompanied by rapid depletion of traditional sources of energy such as firewood, and the problem of identifying and assessing new energy supply technologies which will gain wide spread public acceptance. The research methods are case studies in both rural and urban settings within Nigeria. The instruments used for data collection are interview questionnaires, accompanied by direct observations. Samples of eighty households have been surveyed from each of an urban centre, a rural town, and a village setting in both northern and southeastern Nigeria, with a total of 480 households being surveyed. The data obtained is presented in three steps. First, factors governing current choices of fuel types used on a frequent basis by households for domestic purposes are analyzed, and a comparative assessment is made of the degree to which these factors are incorporated into the designs of commonly proposed new energy supply technologies. Evidence shows that although a household's choice of a particular fuel is naturally influenced by economic factors, the price per unit of energy is not the sole basis of choice. A wide range of intrinsic qualities determine a fuel's desirability. The study shows that safety, reliability of supply, convenience, versatility and cleanliness are variables which are weighed when selecting a fuel type from among the wide array of available sources of energy. The failure to adequately incorporate these qualities into commonly proposed new energy technologies such as solar cookers and biogas, has resulted in promotion of alternate energy supply systems which do not match the needs and preferences of intended users. Although the commonly proposed new energy technologies are based on renewable sources of energy which have the potential to provide sustainable, environmentally safe, and decentralized supply systems involving cheap and versatile fuels, these are not the qualities on which households in Nigeria base their fuel use choices and preferences. The second step involves identification of fuel types most preferred by households for use in domestic chores, and the reasons for such choices. Almost all households surveyed prefer nontraditional fuels such as electricity and kerosene, despite the availability of cheap traditional sources of fuel. Of particular interest is the finding that although village households rely on unsophisticated traditional energy technologies, their attitudes toward nontraditional fuels such as kerosene and electricity are not different from those of households in urban centres and rural towns. Practical considerations such as the availability of a given fuel type govern their current fuel use practices more than do tradition, culture and preference. The third step is analysis of the relationships of household size, residential locations, and income levels to consumption of traditional and nontraditional fuel types. A multiple regression model is employed, and the implications of the findings discussed. Urban growth, accompanied by rising income levels leads to increasing dependence on nontraditional fuels by households for domestic purposes. One cause is the expansion of domestic energy demands such as refrigeration, entertainment and air conditioning, which cannot be satisfied by traditional fuels in their present form. A second cause is that urbanization is accompanied by the provision of nontraditional energy supply systems and the sale of appliances which require the use of such systems. Urbanization is an important aspect of regional development policies in Nigeria, but while regional planners seek to transform villages into thriving urban centres with energy supply systems based on finite hydrocarbon resources, energy planners propose new energy alternatives involving simple technologies for use in rural settings. This finding suggests that new energy supply policies should be made an integral part of national development policies. These research findings suggest that a need-driven approach to the problem of finding acceptable energy supply alternatives is needed to replace the currently employed technology-driven approach.

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