An econometric analysis of energy poverty and sustainable development in Blantyre (Malawi)
Tchereni, Betchani Henry Mbuyampungatete
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Energy is the driver of activity in every economy and, therefore, its importance cannot be overemphasised. However, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) faces general problems of access to modern energy. Most households and industry in SSA use traditional and unclean energy resources for activities such as cooking, lighting and drying of farm produce. Many households in less developed countries have very limited choices with regard to alternatives to traditional energy supplies. Energy poverty is overt in many poor countries, particularly in the Sub-Saharan region where 700 million people are deprived of access to modern energy facilities. In Malawi, less than 6 percent of the population have access to electricity. There are, therefore, many questions regarding the state of energy poverty still to be answered, not only in Malawi, but also the entirety of the SSA region. Questions such as what is the level of energy poverty in these regions? What determines this level of poverty? Why are people not adopting renewable energy facilities for their household needs? Are some energy facilities inferior to others? Such questions were the centre of the present study. These questions are important because, with energy poverty, nearly all the Millennium Development Goals are unachievable and sustainable development could not be a success story where the dominant source of energy for both households and industry is biomass. This study was based on a survey conducted in South Lunzu Township (SLT), which is a low income area to the east of Ndirande Mountain in the city of Blantyre, Malawi. The survey administered a standard questionnaire through face-to-face interviews with heads of households. Data was collected from 319 respondents who were selected through random sampling techniques. The descriptive statistics suggest that the average household size for South Lunzu Township is 5 people. The average age of the sampled respondents was about 38. Energy Poverty and Sustainable Development The findings of the thesis suggest that over 90 percent of the households sampled were energy poor with energy expenditure exceeding 10 percent of total household expenditure. In terms of energy resources used in SLT, 2.9 percent used electricity for cooking meals. Only 2 households, representing 0.63 percent, use liquefied petroleum Gas (LPG) and just 1 household, representing 0.31 percent, depended mostly on solar power. On the other hand, energy facilities that are considered dirty, inefficient and a danger to the heath of people seem to be popular. For instance charcoal and firewood were used by 25 percent and 4.7 percent of the total sample respectively. Most households use a combination of energy facilities; however, those that are considered inferior are preferred. Of the sample, 42 percent use both charcoal and firewood to cook their meals. Further, the results of the Engel functions suggest that charcoal and wood were not regarded as inferior products for the cooking needs of households despite improvements in income. Electricity, which was also regarded as a normal energy resource, had positive income elasticity. To improve access to modern energy facilities at the household level, the thesis recommends that a flexible trade and tax regime, one that will improve the availability and affordability of renewable energy to the majority, should be adopted. The Logit model of energy poverty reveals that household expenditure on transport, income level, age, and education level of the head of household; household size; and home size, are important factors in explaining the level of energy poverty in South Lunzu Township. Further, the results revealed that expenditure on housing and marital status could not be relied upon as important predictors of the probability of energy poverty in South Lunzu. Expenditure on education was associated with lower levels of energy poverty. Households who spent more on schooling also spent more on food items and their expenditure on energy resources was less than 10 percent of the total expenditure per month. In addition, those households that spent more on food were also likely to be energy well-off. Energy Poverty and Sustainable Development Results of the multinomial logit (MNL) model suggest that most socioeconomic variables under study were inelastic in influencing the probability for the outcomes, at the household level, to be used for the purposes of cooking. Statistically, age, income and education level of the head of household, together with household size, were important factors that influenced the choice of most of the outcomes for cooking purposes, including electricity, charcoal, firewood and LP gas. The major recommendation of this study is that campaigns emphasising the abilities of renewable energy be developed and disseminated. That renewable energy is relegated to poor and uncivilised societies is a notion that must be rooted out of the mindset of the average, civilised urban dweller. Also, the use of LP gas for cooking purposes must be encouraged. Import tax regimes that discourage international trade of renewable energy resources must be removed to encourage lower prices on such facilities. These policies would ensure sustainable development by reducing reliance on biomass, which is depleting at a faster rate than it is regenerating.