The sustainability of energy use in the residential sector has relevance for global initiatives to achieve sustainable development and limit climate change.
Using the city of Dar es Salaam, in Tanzania, as a case study, we look at how national energy policy has influenced household cooking energy use between 1990 and 2018, and how energy policy could achieve further progress to realise national and global priorities. The study involved questionnaire surveys of households, retailers, transporters and producers of charcoal; semi-structured interviews with government officials and non-charcoal fuel suppliers; price data collection; a comparative analysis of prices and taxes for different cooking fuels; and policy and document review. Trends in energy policy and demand for different fuels, are compared. We find that Tanzania's national energy policies have focused on achieving an energy transition from biomass to electricity and fossil fuels, with an increasing focus on supply-side issues. Fiscal policy tools have been used effectively to reduce demand for kerosene, while increasing demand for liquefied petroleum gas. However, this has not resulted in a transition away from biomass, with most households using multiple fuels (fuel stacking). Charcoal remains the cheapest (excluding firewood) and most widely used fuel, reflecting the strong influence of price in consumer fuel choices. Energy policy needs to acknowledge the continued dominance of charcoal in urban energy use. In the context of rapid urbanisation and increased energy demand, there is a need for sustainable urban energy planning across a range of fuel types including charcoal, in ways that balance economic, social and environmental outcomes. Greater inter-sectoral coordination is needed to improve the sustainability of urban residential energy supplies.