Contents - Previous - Next
This is the old United Nations University website. Visit the new site at http://unu.edu
Description of the selected villages
Comparison of the economic energy situation in the villages
Household budget allotment for energy costs
Energy supply and the use of alternative energy sources
The acceleration of economic growth in developing countries is inconceivable without an increase in energy usage. Up to now the development of a national power supply network has been concentrated, above all, in areas with a high population density and in urban regions, because the development costs of a supply network are more justified economically in these areas. At the same time the fuel trade has its necessary minimum number of customers.
But also in the hard-to-supply rural regions, the demands of the population are growing for a better and more comprehensive energy supply. The most important energy source in the rural regions is still firewood. Of course, modern forms of energy such as petroleum products are becoming increasingly more significant. However, due to the constant price increases and shortages of the last few years, it has been necessary for outlying areas to resort to traditional forms of energy, such as firewood and charcoal. Due to population increases and the resulting intrusion into the natural environment, the rising demand for firewood as a source of energy is becoming more problematical.
The United Nations University (Tokyo) carried out an investigation into the effect of intensified usage of traditional energy sources on the natural resources of an area. World-wide test communities were selected, clearly differing from one another with regard to their natural spatial arrangement as well as by their own specified social situation. Even though, for example, the shortage of wood for fuel in arid tropical countries is much more serious than in the humid tropics, an impairment of the natural environment through the intensified use of traditional forms of energy also exists in the humid tropics. An increased substitution of modern or alternative forms of energy has failed almost every time due to the substantially high costs of these fuels.
It is therefore of utmost importance to understand the factors governing present energy usage in rural areas, in order to be able to effect better management of the available resources.
Four differently structured communities on the west coast of West Malaysia and three villages on the east coast were investigated (table 1). Kuala Teriang and Padang Lalang lie on the island of Langkawi in the state of Kedah. Seberang Pintasan is a fishing village near Dungun (Trengganu). Jerangau also lies in Dungun District, and a village survey in Pahang was carried out in the five mukim of Langgat, Pahang Tua, Pulau Rusa, Ganchong, and Pulau Manis (Pekan District, Pahang). The two other communities, Kpg. Sendayan and Kpg. L.B.J., are settlements which have been newly erected by the country's housing development authority, FELDA (Federal Land Development Authority). Both are in the state of Negri Sembilan.
TABLE 1. Total number of interviewed households and persons
|Households interviewed||Persons interviewed||Percentage of total village population|
Sources: Interviews, July-September 1980; Kuah/Langkawi district office 1980; Pejabat FELDA Kpg. Sendayan and FELDA Kpg. L.B.J. 1980; Dungun and Pekan district office.
Sendayan and L.B.J. (named after the former U. S. president Lyndon Baines Johnson) lie 20 km to the west of Negri Sembilan's capital of Seremban. Both settlements have been in existence since 1963 and are inhabited exclusively by farmers from the FELDA settlement organization who cultivate rubber trees and oil palms. The inhabitants of both settlements are economically substantially better off than the inhabitants of the other villages. Officially, unemployment does not exist, and the incomes are considerably higher. In Kpg. Sendayan 36.1 per cent of all households have an income of more than 400 ringgit (1980). In Kpg. L.B.J. 74.7 per cent of all households questioned also belong to this group. In many cases, members of individual families pursue part-time occupations in addition to their main occupation of farming. Typical examples are: taxi and bus drivers, caretakers, workers on the nearby plantations. It is mainly the Chinese who operate small shops selling food, furniture, or tools for the farming trade, as.well as run their own farms. The water supply for both settlements comes from a central supply network to which all houses are connected. The basic provisions in the two villages do not differ greatly from the other surveyed villages; however, the individual shops of the two FELDA villages were abundantly stocked. Also, substantially fewer complaints about bottlenecks in supplies were to be heard, especially relating to the supply of mineral oil products such as kerosene. The number of religious establishments, schools, etc., is similar to that of the other villages, however Sendayan also has a secondary school.
The basic forms of energy used in the villages can be divided into two groups: (1) energy that must be purchased, the two most important sources of this type being electricity and kerosene, and (2) readily available energy such as firewood, charcoal, and palm products. In households energy is needed above all as a means of lighting and for cooking. Energy needs for transport also play an ever increasing role.
The Electricity Supply of the Villages
Electricity has been used up to now in all villages primarily for lighting (table 2). Both the FELDA villages are connected to the National Electricity Board (NEB) network. Seberang Pintasan is also connected to this network. The other villages on Langkawi and on the east coast use small diesel generators. Some individual house holds possess their own generator, but in most cases a generator owner will supply his neighbours for a lump sum per appliance used.
TABLE 2. Electricity supply of interviewed households
|None||Private||Public (NEB)||Own generator||No answer|
Source: Interviews, July-September 1980, March-April 1982
aonly 12 hour service
TABLE 3. Number and type of electrical equipment used in the interviewed households
Battery operated equipment
Source: Interviews, July-September 1980, March-April 1982.
While of both FELDA villages only one household had no supply of electricity, only half of all questioned households on Langkawi received electricity. Moreover, the supply runs on an hourly basis and is terminated daily for six to eight hours. For this reason alone it is impossible to operate large electrical appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioning units on Langkawi. Individual households, however, did have a television set and single small appliances such as a table fan or electric iron, as well as lighting devices. In comparison, the households in both FELDA villages are more abundantly fitted out with electrical appliances. Televisions and stereo systems were to be found in most of the households questioned. Additionally, there was a multiplicity of electrically operated small appliances such as fans, irons, and rice cookers (table 3).
Despite this high number of appliances, it was noticed that the average expenditure for electricity in the FELDA villages was lower than that of the households in the fishing villages on Langkawi. This is due to the lump sum price arrangement on Langkawi. In the FELDA villages, by contrast, actual electricity consumption can be exactly established. The electricity supply on Langkawi is of a substantially inferior quality and is also more expensive than in the two FELDA villages. That is why the greatest wish for the future of all those questioned there was to be connected to the public electricity supply.
It is virtually impossible to replace the energy needed for household lighting (kerosene, electricity) with a freely available substitute; in cooking, however, this is done quite often, since firewood is frequently available at no cost and is clearly the dominant fuel. At times it must be transported from relatively distant locations; nevertheless, 44 per cent of all households which use wood as their cooking fuel gather it within a three kilometre radius of their homes (table 4).
TABLE 4. Distances of firewood collection locations, measured from house to source (in miles)
|No firewood collection||Less than 1/2 m||112-1 m||1-2 m||Beyond2 m|
Source: Interviews, July-September 1980
TABLE 5. Energy for cooking
|1970||Electricity||Gas||Charcoal||Timb. off-cuts||Palm prods.||Firewood||Kerosene|
|1980||Electricity||Gas||Charcoal||Timb. off-cuts||Palm prods.||Firewood||Kerosene|
Source: Interviews, July-September 1980, March-April 1982 1 = always; 2 = occasionally; 3 = never
Firewood was used daily for cooking in 182 of 351 surveyed homes (approximately 52 per cent). Kerosene, the second most important cooking fuel, trailed far behind in preference, being used daily by 125 households (35 per cent). Cylinder gas (LPG) was preferred by 8.5 per cent of those surveyed, and only four households regularly used electricity for cooking (table 5). The four are in the two FELDA villages.
If one compares conditions in 1980 with those of ten years ago (table 5), one can see definite changes in all surveyed villages. In 1970, firewood was the most important cooking fuel in more than 90 per cent of all households, while kerosene was used in only 7 per cent. LPG and charcoal were almost non-existent. By virtue of an especially low kerosene price, however, which was stabilized by government subsidies through the summer of 1980 (at a rate of 0.35 ringgit/litre*), kerosene has become a much more popular cooking fuel. Due to a price increase in the summer of 1980 (0.40 ringgit/litre), however, there were indications that firewood was again becoming more popular for cooking.
Coconut shells, a waste product of coconut production, are used as cooking fuel in both villages on Langkawi and in the east coast area. Malayans especially like to use them for preparing certain foods such as barbecue, and many other native dishes are also best suited to cooking over a fire. For this reason, many households in all villages contain several different types of stoves which can be used simultaneously. In a survey on preferred stove types, 235 chose the wood stove as the most important type (preference: very important). The second most popular choice (preference: important) was the kerosene stove, with 147 choosing it as the best method for cooking. In fact, both firewood and kerosene stoves are usually found in most households.
Ethnic divisions also play a role in the choice of stove type and cooking fuel. The Chinese clearly preferred charcoal and cylinder gas. Fifty per cent of all Chinese households named cylinder gas as their most important fuel, whereas only 6.2 per cent of their Malay counterparts did so. On the other hand, firewood, which is the dominant fuel for the Malay (54 per cent) and Indian (54 per cent) populations, is preferred by only 18 per cent of the Chinese. Charcoal is also an important fuel for the Chinese (27 per cent) and the Indians (36 per cent), but it is rarely used by the Malay (13 per cent).
When surveyed about desired cooking fuels for the future (table 6), all households expressed preferences which differ greatly from their current situations. Cylinder gas was clearly preferred by all surveyed households. A total of 143 families designated that the availability of this source of energy was very important for the future, and 122 termed it "important." And, while electricity is at present used very rarely for cooking, 123 families expressed a desire to use it in the future.
Clear distinctions were also evident among the various ethnic groups. The Malayans, who currently rely on firewood for cooking, did not want to abandon this fuel totally in the future. In contrast, electricity as a cooking fuel played a very insignificant role for Malay households, but it was the number one choice of the Chinese.
TABLE 6. Most preferred future energy sources for cooking (by ethnic group)
|Number of families||Ethnic origin||Kerosene||Firewood||Charcoal||Gas(LPG)||Electricity|
Source: Interviews, July-September 1980, March-April 1982
Fifty per cent of all Chinese, as well as more than 35 per cent of all Indian households, would like to use electricity as the major cooking fuel. The second most preferred fuel for Malayans was kerosene; for the Chinese and Indian households, it was cylinder gas.
In sum, concerning the use of various household energy sources, it can be determined that over the past ten years there has been a trend to implement the use of more modern forms of energy. The most significant change has been the substitution of kerosene for firewood as fuel. For the future, it is anticipated that kerosene will be replaced more and more frequently by gas and that electricity will also play a more significant role in many households. When making prognoses for the future, however, one must always take into consideration the various consumer behaviour patterns which are exhibited by certain ethnic groups.
While the costs for household lighting and cooking have remained within reasonable limits and have not overly burdened personal budgets, energy expenses rise considerably when personal vehicles are used.
TABLE 7. Distribution of diesel/petrol fuelled motor vehicles/equipment
|Cars||Boats||Tractors||Motorcycles||Other||Cars/1,000 pop.||Motorcycles/1,000 pop.|
Sources: Kuah/Langkawi district office 1980; Pejabat FELDA Kpg. Sendayan and FELDA Kpg. L.B.J. 1980; Interviews, July-September 1980
In 351 households surveyed, there were 219 motorcycles and 28 automobiles. The average cost of owning an automobile is 80 ringgit per month. In the communities which were surveyed, only businessmen or government officials were able to afford to own automobiles. Automobile distribution among those surveyed, consequently, was quite low, 13.2 cars per 1,000 surveyed. Motorcycles, on the other hand, were much more prevalent and could be found in more than 60 per cent of all households surveyed. Accordingly, motorcycle distribution is much higher: 103.2 vehicles per 1,000 surveyed (table 7).
Contents - Previous - Next