Socio-economic impacts of biofuels in developing countries

J.A.J van Eijck

Research output: ThesisPhd Thesis 4 Research NOT TU/e / Graduation NOT TU/e)


The production and use of biofuels in developing countries, can have positive effects such as increased and diversified agricultural income, employment in rural areas, a general improvement in the standard of living of the local population and improved access to energy. However, it can also lead to negative consequences, such as loss of biodiversity, deforestation, and negative effects on food security and land rights. This research focuses on the driving factors behind these effects; under what circumstances are the socio-economic impacts positive or negative, and how can negative effects be minimized. Social and economic performance are both very important, they must be in balance. A socially very useful project that is not economically feasible, may still lead to very large negative effects. Socio- economic impacts should be included in certification systems. The local context (type of crop, chosen business model, location, level of experience with the crop and / or technology in the region, etc.) is very important for the performance of the system. Better and more detailed local data are therefore needed, including the assumptions that are made (for example, yield per hectare). Furthermore, it is essential to look at effects that occur at different geographical scales simultaneously: global, national, regional and local. National and regional economic equilibrium models should be harmonized and linked tolocal analyses and data collection. This can be done for example by local verification of the model outputs, or by including global price effects in NPV calculations on project level Increased attention should be given to making the right choices for a bioenergy system, taking into account local circumstances but also national and regional development levels and characteristics. The choice will depend on the level of technology and input that is required for the feedstock, on the level of experience and on the level of development in the region. Choice of location must be based on information about climate conditions, current land use and also by socio-economic conditions in a region aspects such as (skilled) labour availability and available infrastructure. Background indicators, such as the GDP and the level of unemployment in a region, do not link directly to impacts of bioenergy, but can provide a ‘snapshot’ of the relative development of a region or country in which bioenergy projects operate. They can help identify potential important areas of concern (associated with negative or positive impacts) beforehand, such as food security or gender issues. An ex-ante analysis of a range of cultural and socio-economic aspects on location is recommended prior to implementation. This can provide insights in potential key areas of concern. This thesis clearly indicates that inclusion of socio-economic aspects in sustainability frameworks for bioenergy is desirable. The bioenergy sector is closely linked, and often an integral part of, the agricultural sector. Thus, policies that support sustainable bioenergy should be well embedded into an overarching agricultural strategy.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Faaij, André P.C., Promotor, External person
  • Romijn, Henny A., Promotor
Award date11 Apr 2014
Place of Publication's Hertogenbosch
Print ISBNs978-90-8891-852-0
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Proefschrift Universiteit Utrecht.


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