| Boiling Point No. 20- December 1989 |
by Raneweera Banda, ITDG Social Scientist, Sri Lanka
The population of users of non-biomass energy for domestic cooking is very small in Sri Lanka and they are concentrated largely in urban and semi urban areas where such sources of energy are easily available. Electricity and petroleum products (ea. LP gas and kerosene) are the main non-biomass energies which are used for domestic cooking in the country.
Nearly 90% of electricity and 98% of kerosene in rural areas is used for lighting the houses. They have a very good reason for this - the conventional fuelwood energy for domestic cooking is still not a problem for them.
Of the total availability of non-biomass energy, the percentage which is used for domestic cooking is very small due to a number of reasons. One reason is that it is expensive and as a result only a small percentage of people can afford it. The prices of stoves and utensils are very high and there are large fluctuations in price. So initial capital investment required for the use of electricity, LPG or kerosene is considerable. Secondly, the availability and accessibility of these sources of energy are still problems for many people. Thirdly people, especially in rural areas, are not used to thinking that electricity and kerosene can be used for both cooking as well as lighting.
But out of the total electricity supply in the country, only 17% is used for lighting and other domestic purpose by individual households. The balance is used by industries and by public and private sector institutions. The situation for kerosene is some what different. 80% of the total consumption is used for lighting houses. From the total gas consumption (2900kgs a day) nearly 25% is used by the commercial sector and the balance 75% is used for cooking by individual households in urban areas. Cooking with gas is not at all common in rural areas because many people are still unaware of it. Insufficient supply and distribution and problems of transportation are the main reasons behind this situation.
The users of electricity, gas or kerosene for domestic cooking find that these energies are convenient to use, reduce cooking time and consequently get rid of a part of the drudgery of household work. They say that unlike biomass energies, these sources of energy help the user to keep the kitchen and the house garden clean. Although not explicitly expressed, some of the users hope to acquire some social status by possessing a modern stove which burns electricity or gas. It is natural in a context where such items cannnot be owned by everybody.
During the last decade a greater desire to acquire electric and gas stoves could be seen among the lower middle class. During this period many people found employment opportunities in the Middle East and the money they earned was spent either for housing or on household goods. A modern electric or gas stove was an essential part of the household goods purchased. These stoves are produced and marketed by private companies with aggressive media promotion campaigns.
The main problem with these stoves is the high running cost, (compared with stoves burning wood and other biomass fuels). The fuel cost of an electric or gas stove is 3 - 5 times more than that of a wood burning stove. Because of the high fuel cost of these stoves, many users are compelled to use a wood burning stove as well. Recent shortages of LPG have forced even the more affluent households to have a stand-by stove.
Therefore, the demand for stoves burning electricity, gas and kerosene is still very small in Sri Lanka and it is unlikely that the market for these stoves will expand in the near future.