Unlocking Clean Cooking and Heating Solutions Key to Reaching Sustainable Energy Goals

May 19, 2015

Photo: SimGas / Courtesy of Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves

  • Nearly 2.9 billion people in the developing world still use polluting fuels like wood, coal and charcoal to cook and heat their homes
  • The estimated health, environmental and economic cost of this continued use of solid fuels is a staggering US$123 billion annually
  • Accelerating efforts to increase access to clean, modern cooking fuels is essential for achieving the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) goals

Nearly 2.9 billion people – more than India and China put together—still use polluting fuels like wood and coal to cook and heat their homes, at a huge cost to the society, in terms of health, environmental and economic costs, estimated at over US$123 billion every year. These numbers underline the urgent need to accelerate the adoption of clean, efficient cooking fuels, which can save millions of lives and help reach sustainable energy goals by 2030, according to a new report.

The State of the Global Clean and Improved Cooking Sector” also states that further investment and active efforts from governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector will be critical to addressing the issue.

Released at the second Sustainable Energy for All Forum in New York on May 19, the report comes at a time when the world is striving to achieve three sustainable energy goals—universal access to energy, doubling of renewable energy share, and doubling the gains of energy efficiency. Access to clean, efficient cooking fuels and devices is one of the main priorities of the push towards universal energy access.

“We must make necessary inroads on clean cooking as the issue crosses so many sectors—health, gender, environment, technology, poverty and energy. The challenge is to combine all of our forces to replace old cookstoves with newer, cleaner, and more efficient ones,” said Anita Marangoly George, Senior Director of the World Bank Group’s Energy and Extractives Global Practice.

For the last four years, an international effort led by the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, with participation from the World Bank and other international organizations, has been working to help 100 million households worldwide adopt clean and efficient cooking solutions. The partnership is focusing on private sector capacity building, fostering enabling markets, policy change and addressing barriers by region and segment.

" We must make necessary inroads on clean cooking as the issue crosses so many sectors—health, gender, environment, technology, poverty and energy.  "

Anita Marangoly George

Senior Director, Energy and Extractives Global Practice, World Bank Group

In spite of these intensifying efforts, access to clean and improved cookstoves and fuels still remains limited in much of the developing world and has a devastating impact on people’s health. Each year, 4.3 million people die prematurely due to indoor air pollution. And if the effort to offer clean, efficient fuels continues at the same pace as today, 57 percent of the world’s population will still not have access to clean cooking in 2020, making it all the more difficult to reach universal access to modern energy services by 2030.

“To solve this issue will require the creation of a thriving global market for clean cooking solutions. There must be sustained efforts to stimulate demand for and adoption of cleaner and more efficient cookstoves and fuels, as well as to develop a robust pipeline of enterprises that can meet growing consumer demand and supply products of high quality that customers value, at prices they can afford,” said Radha Muthiah, CEO of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

One of the biggest challenges facing market growth is the dependence on traditional fuel sources. Wood and dung, for instance, come at little to no financial cost, and are often the fuels of choice for millions who live below the poverty line in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. But even when people are prepared to spend on clean fuel, access to fuels like ethanol, LPG, and electricity is often expensive and supply constrained.

Still, the potential is huge. According to the report, consumers in the developing world spent more than $100 billion across all cooking fuels in 2010 alone, with one-third of the amount spent on charcoal, coal and wood.

So what can be done to close the gap?

Aside from calling for increased investments, the report also suggests a number of steps that governments, donors, NGOs and the private sector can take.

For Governments, Donors, and NGOs:

  • Prioritize market-based approaches wherever feasible to maximize cooking market sustainability, but also showcase direct incentives that can be linked to health and environmental impacts
  • Support the sustainable production of clean biomass fuels and renewable fuel alternatives alongside the current focus on stove efficiency and emissions
  • Provide access to finance, consumer education, quality standards, policy reform and market intelligence
  • Ensure donors continue long term, flexible funding support through effective intermediary models to lay a foundation that will help drive investment in the sector
  • Boost the focus on clean cooking solutions, potentially via smart and targeted subsidies, but continue to invest in intermediate and basic improved cookstoves

For the Private Sector:

  • Capture the opportunity and show that despite challenges, the potential for the clean cooking market is immense, with growing opportunities and a rising number of new entrants
  • Work on low prices via low-cost design, local production or assembly, and innovative distribution and financing models that lower upfront cooking appliance costs
  • Focus on performance and quality, because consumers are ready to pay for better design and fuel savings, while the general public supports solutions that offer health benefits.
  • Focus on opportunities in cooking fuel, not just cookstoves
  • Get close to the consumer through extensive marketing and building a relationship on the ground with clients to build product awareness

This report was jointly developed by the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), a global knowledge and technical assistance program administered by the World Bank, and the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.