Cover Image
close this bookEnergy as it relates to Poverty Alleviation and Environmental Protection (UNDP, 1998, 36 p.)
close this folderExamples of Sustainable Energy Strategies that Simultaneously Address Poverty and Environment Concerns
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentImproved cookstoves and modern fuels
View the documentRural electrification - decentralised options
View the documentImproved urban transportation
View the documentModernised biomass

Improved cookstoves and modern fuels

Since cooking using traditional biomass fuels is both the dominant energy activity in developing countries and is the source of undue hardship to people living in poverty, the dissemination of more efficient cookstoves using traditional or modern fuels is an essential sustainable energy intervention. Depending on relative fuel and stove prices, substantial reductions in both operating costs and energy use can be obtained from switching from traditional stoves using commercially purchased fuelwood to improved biomass, gas, or kerosene stoves.

Several important lessons have been learned from the hundreds of cookstove demonstration and dissemination programmes that have taken place in developing countries, many of which were not initially successful. Cookstove design has since been geared to maximise combustion of fuel, maximise radiative heat transfer from the fire to the pot, maximise convection from the fire to the pot, and maximise conduction to the pot. Most importantly, it aims to maximise user satisfaction by making the stoves convenient to use (with local fuels, cooking pots and utensils) and able to easily prepare local dishes well (Kammen, 1995). Primarily, the end-users (mainly women) must find the stoves easy to use and fuel efficient under a variety of conditions. The stoves must also perform robustly in the environmental and practical constraints of indoor or outdoor kitchens.

In rural areas of developing countries, traditional fuels - wood, crop residues, and dung-remain the primary cooking fuels, while in many urban areas, charcoal is used also. About 2 billion people depend on these crude polluting biomass fuels for their cooking and other energy needs. Higher incomes and reliable access to fuel supplies enable people to switch to more modern stoves and cleaner fuels such as kerosene, gas, dimethyl ether, electricity, and, potentially, to modern biomass - a transition that is widely observed around the world largely irrespective of 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.

Depending on relative fuel and stove prices, substantial reductions in both operating costs and energy use can be obtained from switching from traditional stoves using commercially purchased fuelwood to improved biomass, gas, or kerosene stoves. There may be opportunities to substitute high performance biomass stoves for traditional ones or to substitute liquid or gas (fossil- or biomass-based) stoves for biomass stoves. The key to success in dissemination is persistence and a sound approach, including careful market assessment, product design, production testing, market trials and help with commercialisation. One example of a successful programme has been in Ethiopia, where a British NGO, Energy for Sustainable Development, has developed and commercialised two types of improved biomass cookstoves through an iterative approach of needs assessment, design, product trials, redesign and performance monitoring. The team works with households, stove producers, installers and merchants and pays attention to promotion, technical assistance, quality control and to the provision of business, management and marketing skills to producers. Over 600,000 stoves of one type, and 54,000 of a second type introduced a few years later and using about half the fuel of conventional stoves, have been disseminated, with volumes expected to increase substantially in subsequent years (EC/UNDP, 1999).