Cover Image
close this bookEnergy after Rio - Prospects and Challenges - Executive Summary (UNDP, 1997, 38 p.)
close this folder3. New Opportunities in Energy Demand, Supply and Systems
View the document3.1 Introduction
View the document3.2 Demand Side: Energy and Energy-Intensive Materials Efficiency
View the document3.3 Supply Side: Renewables and Clean Fossil Fuel Technologies
View the document3.4 Fuels and Stoves for Cooking

3.4 Fuels and Stoves for Cooking

The most important energy service today in many developing countries is cooking. Traditional fuels - fuelwood, crop residues and dung - are the main fuels used for cooking in rural areas of these countries. In many urban areas, charcoal and coal are also used. More than half of the world’s 2 billion poor people depend on these crude polluting fuels for their cooking and other heating needs.

more than half of the world’s 2 billion poor people depend on these crude polluting biomass fuels for their cooking and other heating needs

Higher incomes, and reliable access to fuel supplies, enable people to switch to modern stoves and cleaner fuels such as kerosene, LPG and electricity. This transition can be widely observed around the world in various cultural traditions. These technologies are preferred for their convenience, comfort, cleanliness, ease of operation, speed, efficiency and other attributes. The efficiency, cost and performance of stoves generally increase as consumers shift progressively from wood stoves to charcoal, kerosene, LPG or gas, and electric stoves.

There can be a substantial reduction in both operating costs and energy use in going from traditional stoves using commercially purchased fuelwood to improved biomass, gas or kerosene stoves. There are also opportunities to substitute high-performance biomass stoves for traditional ones or to substitute liquid or gas (fossil- or biomass-based) stoves for biomass stoves. Local variations in stove and fuel costs, availability, convenience and other attributes, and in consumer perceptions of stove performance, will then determine consumer choice.

In rural areas, biomass is likely to be the fuel for cooking for many years to come. Alternatively, particularly in urban areas, liquid- or gas-fueled stoves offer the consumer greater convenience and performance at a reasonable cost.

From a national perspective, public policy can help shift consumers toward the more economically and environmentally promising cooking technologies. In particular, improved biomass stoves are likely the most cost-effective option for the near- to mid-term, but require significant additional work to improve their performance.

In the long term, the transition to high quality liquid and gas fuels for cooking is inexorable. With this transition, substantial amounts of labour now expended to gather biomass fuels in rural areas could be freed; the time and attention needed to cook using biomass fuels could be substantially reduced; and household, local and regional air pollution from smoky biomass (or coal) fires could be largely eliminated. The use of biomass-derived liquid or gaseous fuels (e.g., ethanol, biogas, producer gas) for cooking and other advanced options are particularly relevant.