Biomass Energy Sector Planning Guide (BEST)

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The Biomass Energy Sector Planning Guide is a fully revised edit of the Biomass Energy Strategy Guide (BEST). The Guide was jointly developed by the Partnership Dialogue Facility of the European Union Energy Initiative (EUEI PDF) and the GIZ Sector Program Basic Access to Energy (HERA). Its main purpose is to assist stakeholders in government institutions in the development of efficient and coordinated management strategies in the biomass energy sector. The targeted institutions include ministries and government agencies responsible for energy, forestry, gender, environmental protection, rural development and agriculture. The Guide can also be used as a tool by civil society actors and donor agencies for raising awareness about the importance of the biomass sector.

The Guide is based on the experience of EUEI PDF and GIZ in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Rwanda, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nepal and Sierra Leone. Even though this guide is largely built on experience in Africa, its relevance goes beyond Africa. The methodology of identifying gaps and developing management strategies can be applied to all countries where biomass is a key fuel for households and small enterprises.


Worldwide an estimated 2.6 billion people – nearly 40% of the global population – depend on traditional biomass for cooking, of which 95% live in Sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia[1]. In some developing countries, biomass accounts for more than 90% of primary energy consumption. While this proportion may decline, it is unlikely that absolute consumption of biomass will decrease over the coming decades due to population growth and urbanisation trends (see table 1).

Table 1: Projection of dependence on wood fuel (millions of people) by 2030

Projection of dependence on wood fuel (millions of people) by 2030.png

Although negative perceptions of biomass energy are widespread, biomass is not necessarily an unsustainable or backward fuel. Sustainability of biomass use depends on the practices applied in the value chain including forest management techniques and the efficiency of conversion and use.

Currently, a large part of biomass activities are conducted informally. However, a suitable and functioning regulatory framework can move biomass activities to the formal sector. This provides security for producers and traders to invest in better and more sustainable production methods. It also opens the way to intervene positively in the sector.


The Biomass Energy Sector Planning Guide provides a methodology for developing more efficient and cross-sectoral management structures. Six stages for improving biomass energy sector governance are outlined, leading to a fully implemented biomass energy strategy. Each stage consists of several steps, having their own objectives and output. Prior to these intervention stages, a preparatory step is outlined that helps to identify the relevant government agency and assign a specific lead institution.

  • In the Analysis and Team Formation stage, a functioning inter-sectoral implementing team is formed with all stakeholders involved agreeing on a common vision for the biomass energy sector and the objectives of restructuring.
  • It is important to understand the state of the sector in order to define the scope of the restructuration. A Baseline Sector Analysis is therefore conducted to explore the current energy supply and demand situation. By knowing the main challenges, the scope and process of the intervention can be determined.
  • It is also important to assess the possible future development of the sector. Potential changes in supply and demand under prevailing or likely conditions are therefore assessed and different Scenarios are developed. The consequent interventions are based on these scenarios that provide information about expected consumption, resource shortages and market shares of different fuels.
  • Based on the above, a set of Interventions are formulated and selected. This includes the identification of specific objectives with a certain timeframe and estimated allocated funds. It also consists of conceiving a governance structure for the implementation.
  • A biomass energy Strategy is an official, high-level plan that guides government policy in the biomass sector. It is agreed to achieve efficient implementation of the selected interventions and coupled to an Action Plan which sets out the necessary short-term activities as well as medium to long-term actions. A monitoring and evaluation system is set up to evaluate the implementation of the Strategy and Action Plan.
  • In the final step the action plan is endorsed by the stakeholder group. Following the Adoption, the Implementation of the agree activities may commence.

As the needs in countries differ, the process can be concluded at the end of each stage, with useful outcomes.

Lessons Learnt: Why the BEST Guide was fully revised to become the Biomass Energy Sector Planning Guide

The BEST Approach

The Biomass Energy Strategy (BEST) initiative was originally established to support governments in the development of national biomass energy strategies. It provided a structured and replicable approach on how to develop comprehensive strategies. The lessons learnt from the initial country projects were bundled in the first BEST-Guide, which proposed a systematic and ongoing strategy development process following a consultative and participative approach. The Biomass Energy Sector Planning Guide builds on this approach, taking into account the experience of using the BEST methodology in a number of countries.

Lessons Learnt from Implementing the BEST Methodology

The application of the BEST methodology in a number of countries has demonstrated a number of challenges in strategy development for the biomass sector. The challenges are caused as much by the complexity of the content as by the complexity of the multi-stakeholder nature of the biomass sector.

  • Firstly, there are often conflicting interests between various stakeholders in the sector (e.g. forest protection vs household energy use).
  • Secondly, the biomass sector operates largely in the informal sector which is very hard to regulate.
  • Thirdly, the negative impacts of unsustainable use of biomass for energy are largely felt by the poor in rural areas, especially women. The interests of these groups are often not high on the agenda of policy makers.
  • Fourth, there often is a push away from biomass towards fuels that are perceived as more modern. The reality is, however, that it is unlikely that alternative fuels (such as kerosene, LPG or electricity) will offset the increasing demand for biomass energy for cooking because of the affordability and availability of biomass, especially in rural areas. The unrealistic expectation that biomass use will be phased out, obstructs policy development.
  • Fifth, a strategy is not in every country the desired and viable output; some countries are already greatly helped if information becomes available or coordination improves in the biomass sector, while others can develop and implement a full strategy and action plan.

The Altered Focus of the Biomass Energy Sector Planning Guide

Lessons learnt were integrated into the preparation and implementation process. The key differences are:

  • Definition of a clear vision for the biomass sector at the start of the process, shared among all stakeholders. This will set the stage for the development of a strategy. Close cooperation with the different stakeholders ensures the inclusion of the interests of all relevant stakeholders.
  • Strictly defining monitoring and cut-off points during the process promotes regular evaluation of the objectives and the defined processes.
  • A multi stakeholder steering structure ensures stakeholder involvement at all stages. The advised times of stakeholder involvement are clearly indicated in the process.
  • The staged approach, where the end product is not necessarily a strategy, but can also be other outcomes, caters for the needs and capacities of different countries. However, early in the process the desired outcome should be decided on and formulated clearly.


Further Information


  1. World Energy Outlook, 2013