By: Anggun Alfina Zakia

Energy and fuel are important factors for the household’s welfare in developing countries and key drivers of economic growth and development. As estimated by the International Energy Agency (IEA), approximately 2.8 billion[1] people rely on the traditional use of solid biomass for cooking, where the traditional biomass is considered as a polluting fuel. In Indonesia, 62.52% of households used clean fuels (electricity and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)) and 35.09%[2] of households used polluting fuels (kerosene, charcoal, briquettes, and firewood) in 2014. There has been some progress compared to 2001 when 11.14% of the households used clean fuels (electricity and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)) and 87.6% households used polluting fuels (kerosene, charcoal, briquettes, and firewood). This can be explained by the number of households using clean fuels, especially LPG, which started to increase after the introduction of a 3kg LPG policy subsidized by the government in 2007.

The success of the government programs in converting energy for cooking from charcoal, briquettes, firewood, and other polluting fuels into LPG is felt by most households in Indonesia. However, the government program might not be implemented effectively for Indonesian households in rural areas. As we can see in Figure 1 and Figure 2, about 65.58% of households in urban areas used LPG for cooking compared to 25.11% of households in rural areas in 2012. Specifically, about 65.49% of Indonesian households in rural areas still relied on firewood for cooking. There was a significant inequality of using LPG between households in urban and rural areas.

There is an assumption that the inequality of access to clean fuels between urban and rural areas is caused by the location of residence in remote areas. But previous research shows that the lack of access to clean fuels in rural areas is also influenced by the educational level and lifestyle of the head of households. In Figure 3, the findings of the National Socioeconomic Survey (Survei Sosial Ekonomi Nasional, SUSENAS) shows that if the education level of the head of a household is tertiary level or university completed, 49.04% of them used LPG. On the other hand, if the head of household has a primary and secondary education level, 49.64% of them used firewood. This data suggests the education level of the head of household influences a household choice for clean fuels.

The lifestyle of people using traditional biomass is known to have a negative impact on the people’s life quality. Firstly, to collect traditional biomass fuel takes hours and consumes energy. Thus, women who spend time collecting firewood in the forest have less time to have productive activities and educate their children. Girls will also have less time to learn as they have to help their mothers to find woods in the forest. Secondly, women also have an increased risk of respiratory problems because they spend more time in the kitchen and inhale smoke emissions from wood burning. According to Practical Action (2014), rural households in Southeast Asia were estimated to spend four hours a day cooking using traditional stoves. Thirdly, using traditional biomass also has a higher risk of accidents in children than with modern stoves.

Households’ decision on using which types of cooking fuel will affect their health status[3]. Clean fuels will give a positive impact on health and reduced pollution as shown in Figure 4 which indicates the health status based on the types of fuels used for cooking in 2012. The majority of households using clean fuels will be healthier than the household using traditional biomass such as kerosene, charcoal, and firewood because the traditional biomass generally pollutes the environment.

A study by Danlami (2015) shows a framework for households’ energy consumption decision and its implications (see Figure 5). The fuel consumption decision is affected by economic and non-economic factors. The economic factors include the market price of fuel, household income, and household expenditure. The non-economic factors include a set of household characteristics such as household size, the gender of the head of household, education level of the head of household, house ownership, type of house, the location of residence, distance to the fuel source, and access to electricity. This framework explained how various factors influence households’ fuel choice and fuel substitution, and also the outcome and the implication of the households’ fuel consumption decision. If the households’ fuel consumption decision falls on a non-clean energy, it indeed increased pollution and damaged health, which in turn negatively affect general societal welfare. This framework is in the same direction as the energy ladder[4], which says that the fuel used by households is a description of the income level of the household.[5]

Figure 5. A Framework for Households’ Energy Consumption Decision and its Implication (Source: Danlami, A. H., et al., 2015)

In conclusion, there are some factors that drive households to make a choice of what kind of fuel they will use for cooking. The location of residence is one of the main factors for the lack of access to clean fuels of households in the rural area. Residences in remote areas make the government obtained difficulties in distributing clean fuels and provide barriers to households looking for clean fuels. The heads of households or their members in remote areas must have extra costs and time to reach clean fuels. Besides the problem of residence location, the low level of education of household members leads closed mindset in accepting technology and lacking the initiative to access of clean energy. But if polluting fuels are used continuously, it will have negative consequences on the health and environment quality.


Danlami, A.H., et al. (2015). An analysis of the Determinants of Households’ Energy Choice: A Search for Conceptual Framework. International Journal of Energy Economics and Policy 5, 197-205.

Hosier, Richard H., and Dowd, Jeffrey. (1987). Household Fuel Choice in Zimbabwe an Empirical Test of the Energy Ladder Hypothesis. Resources and Energy Vol. 9, December 1987, Page 347-361.

International Energy Agency (IEA). (2017). Energy Access Outlook 2017. Retrieved from IEA Website:

Statistics Indonesia (Badan Pusat Statistik, BPS). (2018). Percentage of Household Population by Province and Type of Cooking Fuel, 2001, 2007-2016. Retrieved from BPS Website:–2007-2016.html

Statistics Indonesia (Badan Pusat Statistik, BPS). (2012). National Socioeconomic Survey (Survei Sosial Ekonomi Nasional, SUSENAS). Jakarta: BPS.

* This opinion piece is the author(s) own and does not necessarily represent opinions of the Purnomo Yusgiantoro Center (PYC)



[3] Danlami, A. H., et al. (2015). An Analysis of the Determinants of Households’ Energy Choice: A Search for Conceptual Framework. International Journal of Energy Economics and Policy 5, 197-205.

[4] The concept of energy ladder is a concept used to explain how the households consume energy to move from traditional to modern energy services in the event of an increase in economic status.

[5] Hosier, R, and Dowd, J. (1987). Household Fuel Choice in Zimbabwe an Empirical Test of the Energy Ladder Hypothesis, Resources and Energy 9, 347-361.

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