Tag Archives: clean cookstoves

Solar Cooking and Energy Service Companies: An Unexplored Market Opportunity?

Solar cooking, as a technology and group of products, has existed for many decades, with examples being used in the 1970s. The technology in its simplest form has remained relatively unchanged since then, with the basic premise being either a flat or parabolic reflecting surface, placed in the sun, reflecting sunlight onto a cooking chamber. This can be either below the flat-plate reflector, or at the focal point of the parabolic collector. These types of devices are easy to manufacture and can be extremely cost-effective, with little more than a reflecting surface (for example, foil-backed card) and a cooking vessel needed for a minimum setup. These features give this technology particular applicability for targeting bottom-of-pyramid consumers with sustainability interventions: typical prices for simple designs (such as the flat-plate reflector shown below) range from US$3-5.

Solar box cooker made from carboard boxes and aluminium foil. Image: https://nakazora.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/solar-cooker1.jpg

Parabolic solar cooker in use at an informal settlement in Barcelona. Image: Brinerustle / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

 

A number of companies currently distribute simple kits for creating solar cookers from scratch, usually in the form of a reflective card template for the reflecting surface. However, these pre-packed kits are often more expensive than locally-sourcing materials for manufacture, ranging up to US$30-40, without offering meaningful benefits to the consumer aside from convenience. There are also a number of companies in developing countries that distribute full solar cookers to consumers using a direct-purchase business model, such as SunFire in South Africa and L’Obel Solar Power in India. Prices for these designs, commonly higher-quality parabolic mirror cookers, range up to US$200.

As such, it appears there is an opportunity for low-cost solar cooking business to develop markets for cheap, reliable solar cookers for bottom-of-pyramid consumers. In addition, through using alternative payment models for business, higher-cost designs can become more accessible to a greater number of consumers. Offering micro-credit products for deferred purchasing of solar cookers, or engaging with consumers on a fee-for-service basis with consumers paying a monthly fee for their product, would allow mid-range technologies to become accessible to consumers with lower incomes.

Other opportunities exist in the solar cooking market space for complimentary technologies, in particular heat-retention bags such as the Wonderbag from South Africa. This is designed to fit around the cooking vessel to retain heat and slow-cook the contents, after it has already been heated, reducing the overall energy requirement for cooking. Whilst this technology is perhaps most applicable to wood or charcoal-fired stoves, it can also help improve convenience when using solar cooking products. For example, rather than leaving a cooking vessel in the solar cooker for up to six hours, it can be left there for 1.5-2 hours, then transferred to the Wonderbag for further cooking.

For more information on the Wonderbag and use-case studies, please refer to https://samsetproject.wordpress.com/2017/04/10/energy-poverty-in-peri-urban-communities-in-polokwane-south-africa-part-1-identifying-the-issues/

— Daniel Kerr, UCL Energy Institute

References

Teach A Man To Fish (2009) Solar Cooker Business Guide. Available at: http://www.teachamantofish.org.uk/resources/incomegeneration/Solar-Cooker-Business-Guide.pdf

Gautam (2011) Microfinance Intervention for Financing Solar Cooking Technologies – Financing With Savings. Available at: http://www.microfinancegateway.org/sites/default/files/mfg-en-paper-microfinance-intervention-for-financing-solar-cooking-technologies-financing-with-savings-mar-2011.pdf

Solar Cookers International: CooKit. https://shop.solarcookers.org/?pn=CooKit&cn=Solar+Cookers&p=621&c=27

L’Obel Solar Power Systems: Solar Thermal Products: http://www.lobelpower.com/solar_thermal_product.htm

SunFire Solutions: http://www.sunfire.co.za/wp/

Wonderbag World: http://www.wonderbagworld.com/

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Partnerships and Opportunities for Clean Cookstoves Support from Governments

This post aims to discuss where the opportunities may lie for governments and private sector organisations to enter partnerships for clean cookstoves market development. Both public and private sector actors have advantages and disadvantages in the approaches generally taken by such bodies in the clean cookstoves market space.

ghstakeholdersmap

Map of stakeholders in the clean cookstoves sector in Ghana. Image: http://cleancookstoves.org/binary-data/RESOURCE/file/000/000/311-1.pdf

Public-sector operations have the ability to achieve scale quickly and effectively, however are often lacking in terms of lasting presences in markets due to the financing models (direct dissemination, direct subsidy) used most commonly in these circumstances. These models tend to lead to consumers failing to maintain use of disseminated equipment, leading to a shrinking of the market presence for cookstoves technologies in the longer term. Private sector market actors, conversely, can take longer to achieve scale in their operations, and have to contend with acquiring financing, either through their operations or donors, to continue maintaining their market presence.

Hence, there are significant, proven opportunities for the combination of approaches. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have the potential to alleviate the negative aspects of both public and private approaches, with private sector actors operating as delivery agents for overarching public-sector objectives, or public sector operators supporting the development of a functioning private market.

The development and marketization of the Sri Lankan clean cookstoves sector, with donor agencies, the state electricity agency, and private sector companies all collaborating to develop a functioning private cookstoves market, is a good example of how PPPs can achieve successful results in the clean cookstoves market context. Support from the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) in distributing clean cookstoves to their existing customers allowed the development of functioning private production enterprises across the country, with a guaranteed market for their produce. Local production of clay stove liners is still continuing in the country. [1]

enablingenvironment

Steps in improving the enabling environment for clean cookstoves. [2]

The creation of an enabling environment for new businesses to enter the clean cookstoves market is another crucial role of governments in developing a clean cookstoves sector. The above image shows a number of pertinent steps that can be taken to do this. Starting at a consumer level, raising awareness of the benefits of a clean cookstove technology, through to allowing small and large businesses to access financing to scale their operations, and enabling credit facilities either through public or commercial banks, governments have the potential to significantly contribute to the ease of starting and maintaining a functioning private clean cookstoves market.

– Daniel Kerr, UCL Energy Institute

[1] Amerasekera, R.M. (2006) Commercialisation of improved cookstoves in Sri Lanka: A case study. Available at: http://www.inforse.org/Case/Case-SriLanka-Stoves.php3

[2] GVEP International (2012) Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves Kenya Market Assessment, Sector Mapping. Available at: http://cleancookstoves.org/resources_files/kenya-market-assessment-mapping.pdf

The Clean Cookstoves Value Chain and Opportunities for Business

The value chain in private markets for clean cookstoves can broadly be categorised into production (either of full cookstoves or materials, such as ceramic liners), distribution and sales activities. For a prospective entrepreneur entering the clean cookstoves market, it is important to identify where business opportunities exist in the cookstoves value chain, and how to target these opportunities with specific business models.

Production of clean cookstoves is most commonly done by private market actors around the world. These companies take raw materials, such as clay or sheet metal, and form either complete cookstoves or cookstove components. Local producers, often clean cookstove product and fuel consumers themselves, feature heavily in the cookstove materials production market, with markets such as Sri Lanka relying on locally-produced clay liners for the dominant Anagi stove design in the country. Through early donor-led cookstove programs in the mid-1980s by organisations such as ITDG (Practical Action), over 200 potters and 2000 stove installers were trained, with over 400,000 stoves disseminated from 1985-1990. This led to a firm foundation for commercialisation and marketization of cookstoves technology. As of 2012, over 300,000 stoves were being produced annually, with 74 distribution companies active in the country [1] [2] [4]

anagistoveproducerMr. Thureirasa Ratnakumar, an ‘Anagi’ stove producer in Sri Lanka. Image: http://unhabitat.lk/news/promoting-energy-efficient-improved-cooking-stoves-for-better-health-in-the-north-of-sri-lanka/

Some distribution companies operate in an integrated fashion with other sectors of the market, such as being manufacturer and distributor or manufacturer and vendor. Generally cookstove products at a pre-distribution level are sold on a direct purchase basis to distributors or vendors, with little in the way of finance on a non-commercial loan basis.

Distribution companies in the cookstoves sector act as intermediaries between vendors and producers, but these activities can be integrated into a single company. Distribution of clean cookstoves is also commonly achieved with a direct purchase model, although costs can be high in distribution if operating outside of areas with suitable transport infrastructure, meaning that distributors negotiating favourable purchase terms with suppliers is not uncommon due to the high up-front costs of the business.

– Daniel Kerr, UCL Energy Institute 

[1] Amerasekera, R.M. (2006) Commercialisation of improved cookstoves in Sri Lanka: A case study. Available at: http://www.inforse.org/Case/Case-SriLanka-Stoves.php3

[2] World Food Program (2012) Sri Lanka: 50,000 Fuel Efficient Stoves Change Lives Of IDPs In The North. Available at: https://www.wfp.org/stories/50000-fuel-efficient-stoves-have-been-distributed-among-idps-north-sri-lanka

[3] BURN Cookstoves: About Us. Available at: http://www.burnstoves.com/about/

[4] [2] Rai & McDonald, GVEP International (2009) Cookstoves and markets: experiences, successes and opportunities. Available at: http://www.hedon.info/docs/GVEP_Markets_and_Cookstoves__.pdf

Direct Dissemination (State Programs) vs Private Sector Models

This post, the second in our business models series, aims to explore the differences between state-led dissemination models and private-sector business models, both in terms of scalability, as well as affordability for consumer and the potential for developing sustainable markets and sustainable businesses.

There are a variety of business models that could be used to develop clean cookstoves businesses, which can broadly be categorised into three spheres: direct dissemination models, where the user receives a cookstove funded by an outside organisation (government, international donors etc.); vendor sales models, where consumers directly purchase a cookstove for a lump sum from a vendor, and micro-credit models, either delivered by vendors themselves or through dedicated micro-finance institutions. [2]

Vendor sales are the most common method of businesses interacting with end-users in the clean cookstoves sphere. These vendors either purchase cookstoves on a wholesale basis from producers or distributors, or are assisted by third-sector financing organisations to enable this purchase. BURN Cookstoves in Kenya, one of the largest integrated cookstoves companies in the country, uses a direct-sales model for its operations.

Micro-credit in the form of dealer credits are another common financing instrument used in vendor purchase models for clean cookstoves, allowing consumers to pay a periodic fee to progressively purchase a clean cookstove. Some vendors have clean cookstoves as their primary business, others use it as an additional income stream to a more traditional goods shop, or as another source of revenue in an energy service company business. For example, some solar home system concessions in South Africa, such as the Nuon-RAPS (NuRa) utility are using clean cookstoves to supplement their business with a smaller, secondary revenue stream, selling both cookstove equipment and fuels. NuRa uses sales of charcoal and ethanol gel cookstoves, as well as integrated fuel/hob LPG stoves, to supplement their main solar home system business.

The Kenyan clean cookstoves market is a good example of one that has transitioned from a direct dissemination model at a donor/state scale to a private-sector led distribution and sales model. Donor/development agency-led clean cookstoves programs in Kenya date back to the 1980s, and designs used in the initial deployment phase, such as the Kenya Ceramic Jiko (KCJ), have become staple designs of the market. Charcoal stoves however are still the predominant cookstove type used in Kenya, with estimates that 47% of the population use some form of charcoal stove, rising to 80% in urban areas such as Nairobi. Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves estimates put the size of the market at 2.5-3 million households using some form of clean cookstove in 2012. As of February 2016, the GACC is continuing to work with partners such as the Clean Cooking Association of Kenya (CCAK) and other governmental and non-governmental organisations, to disseminate 5 million improved cookstoves by 2020.

kcj
Ceramic Jiko stove, often referred to as the Kenya Ceramic Jiko. Image: AFREPREN

The cookstove market is fragmented in Kenya, with the majority of cookstove production done on a small to medium scale. Distribution costs can be high because of this, and with a poor road network in some areas, it becomes more feasible for wholesale buyers to collect directly from producers. Cookstoves are sold through a combination of dedicated retailers and traditional vendors, with wholesale buyers acting as further distribution agents to demand centres. [1]

There are a number of reasons why private-sector models can have advantages over state/donor-led dissemination. The Kenyan market relies on private provision of cookstoves from manufacturers at a local level, with vendors purchasing cookstoves wholesale to be sold later. Whilst this can increase costs to end users due to multiple markups in the value chain, offering micro-finance at a vendor level allows vendors to access wider segments of the consumer market, allowing people who could otherwise not afford a cookstove outright the chance to progressively purchase one. Scalability and flexibility are also advantages to private-sector dissemination, with multiple opportunities across the value chain for businesses depending on local consumer preferences and material availabilities. [3]

The next post in this series will explore the concept of the clean cookstoves value chain further, and identify where potential business might be sited within this value chain.

– Daniel Kerr, UCL Energy Institute

[1] GVEP International (2012a) Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves Kenya Market Assessment, Sector Mapping. Available at: http://cleancookstoves.org/resources_files/kenya-market-assessment-mapping.pdf

[2] Gaul (2009) Subsidy schemes for the dissemination of improved stoves. Experiences of GTZ HERA and Energising Development. Available at: http://fsg.afre.msu.edu/promisam_2/references/Gaul_2009_Stove_Subsidies.pdf

[3] SNV (2015) ICS Business Toolkit, Starting, Managing and Growing an Improved Cook Stoves Business in Uganda. Available at: http://snv.org/en/countries/uganda/publications/snv-uganda-integrated-cookstove-business-toolkit

Clean Cooking Technologies and Dissemination: Growing Markets

Clean cookstoves, also known as improved cookstoves (ICS) have the potential to significantly change patterns of household and institutional energy use in developing countries. However, access to clean cookstoves for consumers in developing countries remains low, despite high levels of fuel use appropriate to cookstoves being prevalent in developing countries, particularly in rural areas.

cookstovegraph1

Share of population using solid fuels with access to improved cookstoves in Developed Countries (DCs), Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) [1]

The use of clean cookstoves has the potential to improve livelihoods, particularly for women and children, in developing countries through alleviating the time burden of gathering fuel, allowing users to spend more of their time on other activities, for example income generation. Daily collection of firewood for cooking can vary in duration from 3 hours [7] to seven hours [8]. Clean cookstove technologies such as rocket stoves can achieve the same cooking results, in the same time, while using just 60% of the fuel [8]. Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves research has shown that traditional cookstove-using households in India, Bangladesh and Nepal on average spend 660 hours/year on fuelwood collection, while improved cookstove households spend just 539 hours/year [9]. Indoor air quality improvements are another key benefit. Around 3.8 million premature deaths annually are caused by non-communicable diseases, such as heart diseases and lung cancer that can be attributed to indoor air pollution [3].

Removing poorly-combusting, high-smoke fuels such as traditional wood fuels from the household energy mix in developing countries, and reducing indoor air pollution consequently, would have huge positive consequences for public health in the developing world.

Clean cookstoves technologies tend to be demarcated on the type of fuel used, as well as the general design of the cookstove and its technological aims. These cookstoves can also be demarcated through cost, with lower-cost cookstoves made from clay or metal with a clay lining, and higher-cost stoves using factory-machined materials like metals. Differences in cost tend to lead to different target market, with low-cost cookstoves targeting rural consumers, and higher-cost cookstoves focusing on emerging middle classes and high-income employees. Costs for a household clean cookstove can range from US$10 to US$350+, and as such different business models are required to disseminate these stoves to best reach their target markets. High-cost stoves are most commonly directly sold to consumers, whereas low-cost stoves can be available through government or donor programs of dissemination, as well as through direct purchase, vendor-credit or micro-credit models. [4] [6]

stovetech-combined-wood-charcoal-ics

Stovetech combined wood/charcoal improved cookstove. Source: http://inhabitat.com/four-cooking-stove-designs-that-can-save-the-world/

Solid fuel cookstoves, for example cookstoves using traditional woodfuels, tend to aim for significantly more efficient combustion of fuels, reducing indoor air pollution in the form of smoke and particulate matter, as well as generating more heat. These efficient designs can focus on combusting fuel more effectively, through designing combustion chambers to allow for more aerobic combustion, whereas others focus on having a heavily-insulated cooking chamber to reduce heat loss, focusing on longer cooking times for the same amount of fuel. Other cookstove designs for developing countries focus on using more efficient fuels with low-cost technology. Some examples of this include efficient charcoal stoves, as well as LPG stoves designed for developing country use.

cookstove-blog-table-1

Lab efficiencies of various established cookstove designs used in the developing world. Table established by D. Kerr derived from http://catalog.cleancookstoves.org/test-results, with standards available online at: http://cleancookstoves.org/technology-and-fuels/testing/protocols.html

However, lab efficiencies do not always translate into real-world efficiencies. A recent Indian cookstoves study conducted by researchers at the University of Washington and the University of British Colombia found disparities in real-world use efficiencies in a recent CDM program of cookstove dissemination from the Indian government. Particulate matter emissions especially were higher than expected, which may have been due to the ‘stove-stacking’ phenomenon, where families continue to use traditional cookstoves after receiving an improved cookstove. Some 40% of households in this study were found to be doing this [5].

Dissemination of clean cookstoves, and growth in access to the technologies, has the potential to have a significant positive impact on the sustainability of energy use and improvement of livelihoods of consumers in developing countries. Whilst state-run programs have had some success in directly distributing clean cookstoves, market-based measures have been shown to have significant impacts over the medium-long term, and private cookstove markets have developed in a number of Sub-Saharan African countries, such as Kenya, South Africa and Uganda. Markets across the world have disseminated large numbers of cookstoves, with over 12 million disseminated in China in the 2012-2014 period, 4.5 million in Ethiopia, and nearly 3 million in Cambodia [12]. The Kenyan clean cookstoves market was sized at 2,565,954 units in 2012, with high levels of urban and peri-urban penetration (~35%), but significantly less rural coverage [10]. The Ugandan market by comparison is estimated to be around 600,000 households, with urban areas again dominating this group [11].

This series of posts aims to explore the variety of models that private businesses can use to achieve scale and sustainability in their operations in the clean cookstoves sector [2]. Direct dissemination will be compared to vendor purchase, vendor credit and micro-credit models in the second blog of this series. Post three will explore the clean cookstoves value chain and identify opportunities for business growth along the value chain, and the fourth post in this series will examine the role of government in promoting clean cookstoves businesses.

– Daniel Kerr, UCL Energy Institute

[1] Bazilian et al. (2011) Partnerships for access to modern cooking fuels and technologies. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, Vol. 3, pp. 254 – 259.

[2] Rai & McDonald, GVEP International (2009) Cookstoves and markets: experiences, successes and opportunities. Available at: http://www.hedon.info/docs/GVEP_Markets_and_Cookstoves__.pdf

[3] WHO Website (2016) Household air pollution and health.  Available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs292/en/

[4] Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (2016) Clean Cooking Catalog.  Available at: http://catalog.cleancookstoves.org/stoves

[5] University of Washington (2016) Carbon-financed cookstove fails to deliver hoped-for benefits in the field. Available at: http://www.washington.edu/news/2016/07/27/carbon-financed-cookstove-fails-to-deliver-hoped-for-benefits-in-the-field/

[6] Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (2016) Business and Financing Models., Available at: http://carbonfinanceforcookstoves.org/implementation/cookstove-value-chain/business-models/

[7] FAO (2015) Running out of time: The reduction of women’s work burden in agricultural production. Available at: http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4741e.pdf

[8] GACC (2015) The Use of Behaviour Change Techniques in Clean Cooking Interventions to Achieve Health, Economic and Environmental Impact. Available at: https://cleancookstoves.org/binary-data/RESOURCE/file/000/000/369-1.pdf  

[9] GACC/Practical Action (2014) Gender and Livelihoods Impacts of Clean Cookstoves in South Asia. Available at: https://cleancookstoves.org/binary-data/RESOURCE/file/000/000/357-1.pdf

[10] GVEP/GACC (2012) Kenya Market Assessment: Sector Mapping. Available at: https://cleancookstoves.org/binary-data/RESOURCE/file/000/000/166-1.pdf

[11] GVEP/GACC (2012) Uganda Market Assessment: Sector Mapping. Available at: http://cleancookstoves.org/resources_files/uganda-market-assessment-mapping.pdf

[12] REN21 (2016) Renewables Global Status Report. Available at: http://www.ren21.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/GSR_2016_Full_Report_REN21.pdf

The Emerging Impacts and Evolving Development Framework for Thermal Energy Services

Binu Parthan of Sustainable Energy Associates writes on developmental frameworks and the emerging sphere of thermal energy services in them.

When the STEPs project received the nod from EPSRC and DfID in 2012, energy access in developing countries was all about electrification and Cookstoves. The assumption was that if you provide an efficient biomass Cookstove to a household and the thermal energy access problem was solved. So lot of the focus in 2012 was on cooking and Cookstoves. Efforts then were essentially focussed on developing more efficient Cookstoves and reducing the cost of Cookstoves. In addition to Biomass Cookstoves, there were also efforts which were focussed on solar cooking focussed. So the space was divided between different technologies and limited to biomass and solar energy technologies.

When STEPs project was proposed in 2012, where we encouraged to consider thermal energy as a service for cooking, space and water heating and applications, the typical reaction was that it was a just another Cookstoves project. Often the challenge was that people – both practitioners and researchers had not heard about the concept and were often quick to dismiss it. Another challenge was when we advocated technology neutrality meaning that the thermal energy services may be delivered through renewables, LPG or electricity there was certainly a lot of discomfort as if was always been about Cookstoves and technologies. There were also suggestions that cooking technologies should be limited to renewable energy and LPG was fossil fuel based and was not an option for developing countries etc.

BP cookstove lesotho

A traditional wood stove for space heating in Lesotho. Image Credit: Sustainable Energy Associates

The STEPs project team has since made a number of efforts to increase awareness about the need to look at thermal energy as a service rather than a product. We spoke at several events that had linkages to the energy access agenda and targeting development agencies and governments. Our team reviewed and commented on the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) drafts and objected to the emphasis on Cookstoves in the earlier drafts. We also emphasised the need for considering space heating and sanitation energy needs and the need for technology neutrality.

We also carried out a questionnaire survey during second half of 2014 to early 2015 with 2 objectives 1) to popularise the project and the idea of thermal energy services and 2) to gather data for the project outputs. The questionnaires that were sent out to 64 experts drawn from development agencies, practitioners and researchers with response collected through Survey Monkey, response forms and through phone interviews. The STEPs team also held discussions with two South African rural energy enterprises to encourage them to consider an energy service offering. We reviewed and commented on the Global Tracking Framework (GTF) and the multi-tier framework for energy access for the UN’s initiative on Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All).

We also continued to look for opportunities to pilot the STEPs model in an actual implementation context and continued our discussions with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Lesotho. It was important for us that STEPs as an effort to go beyond a collection of publications and outputs to an effort which will make a tangible impact on public policy as well as thermal energy use in developing countries.

Now with the project in its third and final year we are seeing the impact of the some of our persistent efforts:

  • The current and final text and the background narrative on SDG 7 on energy talks about cooking and heating and the targets for SDG 7 is technology neutral, silent on technologies and talks about energy services. The final target reads as ‘By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services’. As the global development agenda on energy during 2016-2030 will be guided by the SDG framework, this will allow a level playing ground for thermal energy services and hopefully attract more resources to support thermal energy services in developing countries;

  • The SE4All GTF update in 2015 is more technology neutral and includes space heating. The multi-tier frameworks also place an emphasis on service, fuel supply etc. and a new multi-tier framework has been included for space heating. As the GTF and multi-tier framework is likely to be used by World Bank and other development agencies for energy access projects/programmes, this may support the implementation of more thermal energy access initiatives.

  • We have had one South African private enterprise – AES requesting the project for business advice on offering an energy service business proposition;

  • Responses from 32 out of 64 organisations to the questionnaire survey including development agencies such as World Bank, IFC, UNIDO, UN-ESCAP, GIZ practitioners such as NuRa Energy, Practical Action, Selco, Simpa, BGF, S3IDF, ECS, ACE, practitioner networks such as GVEP, GACC, Ashden and energy research organisations such as IIASA, Imperial College, Stellenbosch University, TERI etc and the World LPG Association. Many of these organisations expressed a desire to be updated on the STEPs project details.

  • Although we faced delays in implementation with the UNDP Lesotho project where we wanted to integrate the STEPs model for thermal energy services, we have managed to integrate the STEPs thermal energy services model into a much larger project in Afghanistan. The project which began implementation in 2016, will implement the thermal energy services model in about 200 villages benefitting about 20,000 households;

During this final year in 2016, we will continue to focus on disseminating results from the research and deepening our influence and impacts with actual on the ground projects.

– Binu Parthan, SEA

“Fuel Switching” To LPG: Substituting More Sustainable Fuels

‘Fuel switching’ has achieved some prominence in the sustainable energy for development discourse. Fuel switching is usually used to define situations where end-users transition from less-sustainable traditional fuels, such as fossil fuels like kerosene or paraffin, or traditional woodfuels, to more sustainable sources of fuel used for the same purpose. For example, kerosene for lighting may be substituted for electric lighting from a solar home system, or woodfuels used for cooking or heating may be substituted for LPG.

Fuel switching has been particularly put forward when relating to LPG uptake in developing countries, as LPG fuel has significant benefits over other modes of fuel used for similar purposes. These can include superior combustion properties, producing less indoor air pollution with the attendant co-benefits in terms of public health. Fuel switching can lead to a reduced burden on the end-user for energy resource acquisition, such as alleviating the time burden of collecting woodfuels or purchasing charcoal/kerosene.

STEPs LPG Blog 1 Graph 1

Time spent collecting wood fuels per day by women in different African countries, 1990-2003, World Bank 2006. Source: http://ourworldindata.org/data/environmental-change/indoor-air-pollution/

Fuel switching (combined with the use of efficient cookstoves) can also lead to improved performance resulting from the use of a more energy-dense fuel, such as reduced cooking times.

STEPs LPG Blog 1 Graph 2

A comparison of different types of clean cookstoves and their relative energy consumptions and times to boil water. Source: http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2014/06/thermal-efficiency-cooking-stoves.html

But fuel switching is not a one-way process where energy users switch to modern fuels and never come back to traditional fuels. Energy stacking is defined as when end-users in developing countries engage in multi-modal fuel usage depending on a variety of factors (e.g. variances in household income seasonally or over time), or utilising certain fuels for specific purposes (e.g. using kerosene for lighting and woodfuels for cooking).

Creating the incentive for a household, commercial enterprise or industry to engage in fuel switching can be challenging. The barriers to increased uptake of sustainable energy sources and more-sustainable energy equipment, such as solar home systems or LPG cooking apparatus, are well-documented [1] [2]. These can include higher costs for fuels, high initial investment costs putting systems/equipment out of reach of users, and problems with fuel availability, for example in distributing LPG fuels to remote rural areas.

These issues will be addressed in the next article in this series on the STEPs Blog, “Methods of Promoting LPG Uptake in Developing Countries”.

— Xavier Lemaire & Daniel Kerr, UCL Energy Institute, February 2016

[1] Pandey & Chaubal (2011) Comprehending household cooking energy choice in rural India. Biomass & Bioenergy, Vol. 35, pp. 4724 – 4731.

[2] Rai & McDonald (2009) Cookstoves and Markets – Experiences, Successes and Opportunities. Available at: http://www.hedon.info/docs/GVEP_Markets_and_Cookstoves__.pdf#