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BRIEF September 24, 2020

Multi-Tier Framework for Cooking: A Comprehensive Assessment Method to Measure Access to Modern Energy Cooking Services

What is the Multi-Tier Framework for cooking and why is it important?

  • As part of ESMAP’s global initiative launched in 2015 to collect household-level data on energy access for cooking and electrification, the Multi-Tier Framework (MTF) for cooking was developed and continuously refined through consultation with partners and feedback from field surveys. The MTF collects and analyzes data on multiple dimensions of access such user behavior, cooking conditions, the use of multiple cooking solutions, convenience, and safety aspects. It allows for disaggregate and aggregate analysis to yield detailed information on various parameters and indexes that facilitate comparison over time and across geographic areas. The MTF for cooking includes six attributes: (i) exposure, (ii) efficiency, (iii) convenience, (iv) safety, (v) affordability, and (vi) fuel availability. To measure progress, each attribute has six tiers, ranging from 0 to 5.
  • This comprehensive framework complements the binary approach  currently used to track progress toward SDG target 7.1, which initially  measured  whether or not households had access to nonsolid fuels, and later evolved to measuring whether or not households had access to clean fuels as their primary source  for cooking.
  • This binary approach enabled tracking progress at a global level, with current estimates revealing that 2.8 billion people lack access to clean cooking solutions worldwide. While the binary approach has been helpful in making clear the enormous scale of the problem, it leaves out a critical segment of people that, while they may have access to  clean stoves and fuels,  lack access to truly modern cooking practices due to a variety of factors, such as affordability, safety, fuel availability, and convenience. In addition, the binary approach is unable to provide granular information on the extent and depth of the issue of access.
  • To complement the binary measure, there was a growing consensus among practitioners that the definition and measurement of access should reflect a continuum of improvement. The continuum should not only focus on fuels but also the influence of the cookstove, users’ experience and contextual factors.
  • The MTF for cooking responds to this need for a more comprehensive understanding of the sector and makes it possible to monitor incremental, attribute-specific progress toward achieving the SDG 7.1 target. Its multi-dimensional design allows stakeholders to track cooking-sector progress using a broad set of household-level data. When incorporating a more complete cooking context into the measurement approach, we realize that the challenge is significantly larger than previously thought.

How does the Multi-Tier Framework for cooking assess a household’s access to modern energy cooking services?

  • To measure progress, the MTF design consists of six equal attributes: two technical attributes that have long shaped the definition of “clean” cooking (exposure and efficiency) and four contextual attributes that capture the user’s cooking experience (convenience, fuel availability [a proxy for reliability], safety, and affordability).
  • Each of these six attributes is scored across six tiers (0–5), and the tiers are measured using one or more indicators, each spanning a lower and upper threshold.
  • “Modern energy cooking services” refers to a household context that has met the standard of Tier 4 or higher across all six measurement attributes of the Multi-Tier Framework (MTF). 


A household can be considered to have gained access to modern energy cooking services if it scores on Tier 4 or above on all six attributes of the Multi-Tier Framework for Cooking.

  • Efficiency: combination of combustion and heat-transfer efficiency
  • Exposure: personal exposure to pollutants, which depends on both stove emissions and ventilation (higher tiers indicate lower exposure)
  • Convenience: time collecting / purchasing fuel and preparing the stove
  • Availability: readiness of the fuel when needed by user
  • Safety: severity of injuries caused by the stove over the past year
  • Affordability: share of household budget spent on fuel (higher tiers indicate lower share of spending)

Note: numbers indicate tiers within each attribute

How does the Multi-Tier Framework for cooking differ from previous methods of establishing access to clean cooking?

  • The MTF focuses on the user’s perspective on key attributes of a cooking solution. It provides a comprehensive tool to capture information on access to cooking energy, encompassing user behavior, cooking conditions, and the use of multiple cooking solutions, as well as convenience and safety aspects. It allows for disaggregate, as well as aggregate, analysis to yield detailed information on various parameters and indexes that facilitate comparison over time and across geographic areas.
  • The MTF’s multidimensional design allows stakeholders to track cooking-sector progress using a broad set of household-level data. Multidimensionality enables aggregation of households across geographic, social, economic, and gender categories to provide a more nuanced understanding of the access issue.
  • These features make the MTF particularly useful on three fronts: mainstreaming new data-collection approaches for SDG 7.1 will support governments to set the baseline and targets in their country; understanding contextual, household-level impacts can help identify demand-side needs; and setting sector-wide aspirations for moving toward MECS.
  • New in-depth datasets from the MTF household surveys and multi-country studies, including attitudinal questions, allow sector stakeholders to dig deeper into the “hows” and “whys” of product use or disuse. This data can help inform and improve nascent markets and private sector players.
  • For example, in-depth data makes it possible to validate the challenges imposed by “dirty stacking” and the high potential of “clean-stacking” behavior. Dirty stacking occurs when primary clean-stove users continue to use secondary traditional stoves (e.g., open-fire stoves, fireside cookers and wood ovens, charcoal stoves, and charcoal barrels) with high frequency. Alternatively, clean stacking occurs when households using a traditional stove, start using a modern fuel and stove along with the traditional one. Even in countries with relatively strong clean-fuel penetration, affordability and availability factors drive rural users, in particular, toward less clean, secondary solutions.


What is the impact of applying the Multi-Tier Framework for cooking to assess access to modern energy cooking services?

  • An analysis of a sample of 71 countries (with a population of 5.3 billion), shows that approximately 4 billion people do not have true access to modern energy cooking services.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa has the smallest share of the population with access to modern energy cooking services (10%), while Latin America and the Caribbean (56%) and East Asia (36%) have the highest shares.
  • In most countries, rural households have lower levels of access which drives down the overall sample population’s access. Only 12% of rural households in the sample meet all access criteria, compared with 38% of urban households. Of this 4 billion population without access, approximately 1.25 billion people find themselves in a state of ‘transition’, i.e. for one or more attributes they fall into Tier 2.While over the last decade the number of households accessing clean fuels has increased in absolute terms, the number of people cooking with traditionally less clean fuels has also increased. This is due in large part to significant population growth in communities primarily using biomass and charcoal in inefficient stoves.
  • Despite the trends in clean fuel uptake, stove and fuel stacking behavior—i.e., the use of multiple stove and fuel combinations within the same household—remains the norm. Availability factors can be key drivers of fuel stacking behavior, particularly when accounting for seasonality and supply chain volatility. The adoption of modern energy cooking services depends on a range factors that are market-specific and culturally determined.

How can the Multi-Tier Framework for cooking assist countries to achieve universal access to modern energy cooking services?

  • The Multi-Tier Framework for cooking provides countries with a measurement tool to take stock of the levels of access in the country and to develop policies and strategies that address specific barriers to adoption that are identified through the user-centric data provided by the MTF.
  • The MTF provides insights on variations in fuel stacking behavior and how it affects access. For example, populations of two countries with comparable primary cooking fuel mixes can have very distinct experiences with modern energy cooking services depending whether households practice clean or dirty fuel stacking.
  • The MTF shows that income remains a fundamental driver of fuel and stove demand, with lowest segments of the population most dependent on the historically most affordable fuels—primarily wood or charcoal.
  • Convenience factors, measured primarily by the time taken to collect and cook, vary dramatically by fuel. The MTF can identify users that are more severely affected by disrupted value chains or technology that is not user-friendly.
  • Ensuring greater demand for modern energy cooking services will require services, products, and interventions that are better adapted to the underlying needs of households.