Transformation Strategies

Enhance Demand

User as Consumer

Consumer awareness and education regarding the health, environmental, gender, and economic benefits of clean cookstoves is critical to any effort to stimulate demand for clean cookstoves. Yet, convincing people to make the behavioral shift from a way of cooking that their families and communities have used for generations to a clean cookstove is one of the sector’s major challenges.

Current challenges in motivating the user to become a clean cooking solutions customer include low awareness of the benefits in terms of health, time savings and economic benefits; the fact that cookstoves are a ‘push’ product instead of a ‘pull’ product such as a mobile phone or a computer, which provide a service or a address a need that had not been previously met; and a lack of clear understanding about who in the household ultimately makes the decision to purchase a clean cookstove.

There are many ways to counter consumer skepticism and to build awareness about the benefits of investing in clean cooking solution. One way of countering consumers’ skepticism is to develop public awareness programs that will resonate with the end-user, using a combination of non-traditional media such as community theater with radio and advertising.

Reach The Last Mile

Many cookstove smoke-impacted households are often located in rural or remote locations, which present challenges for reaching those customers with clean cookstoves and fuels in the so-called ‘last-mile’ before the product reaches the consumer’s door. The size, weight, and fragility of clean cookstoves often provide distribution and logistical challenges. Other factors such as consumer price sensitivity, deeply ingrained cultural preferences, gender bias, and the need for both scalability and customization must be considered when developing mechanisms for reaching the end-user.

To ensure successful adoption of clean cookstoves and fuels, training on the operation and maintenance of clean cookstoves is critical. Women can often play a central role in addressing these demand-side challenges, as they often excel in entrepreneurial activities and can be pivotal in the creation of distribution and repair networks.

Finance Clean Cookstoves and Fuels

Many cookstove smoke-impacted households are often located in rural or remote locations, which present challenges for reaching those customers with clean cookstoves and fuels in the so-called ‘last-mile’ before the product reaches the consumer’s door. The size, weight, and fragility of clean cookstoves often provide distribution and logistical challenges. Other factors such as consumer price sensitivity, deeply ingrained cultural preferences, gender bias, and the need for both scalability and customization must be considered when developing mechanisms for reaching the end-user.

To ensure successful adoption of clean cookstoves and fuels, training on the operation and maintenance of clean cookstoves is critical. Women can often play a central role in addressing these demand-side challenges, as they often excel in entrepreneurial activities and can be pivotal in the creation of distribution and repair networks.

Better Technologies, More Options

The availability of high-quality products is critical to ensuring widespread adoption of clean cookstoves and fuels. Just like any other product, different cookstove designs are needed to meet different individual needs (e.g. varying local fuel sources, family sizes, and food types), user-friendliness (e.g. cook quickly), aspirations (e.g. clean, modern kitchens), and ability to pay, in addition to safety and durability.

Despite the recent surge in clean cookstove innovation, the breadth of cookstoves required to meet consumers’ needs and wants does not yet exist. Some cookstoves are efficient, safe, and durable, but their initial cost may be too expensive for consumers (usually $15-40 USD). Others are very clean, but cost even more ($25-150 USD), while others only cost a few dollars and sell at scale, but their health and environmental benefits may be limited and the stoves may not last long enough to obtain carbon revenues.

The physical appearance of the stove, including its color, size, and shape, as well as its user-friendliness and ability to cook the locally-preferred foods in the proper way, also impact a cookstove’s desirability.

More efficient fuels and a range of innovative technologies should be made available to potential consumers. Efficient fuels include pellets, biofuels and solar cookers. Innovative technology can use electricity generated by heat from the stove to drive fans, thus increasing the stove’s efficiency and removing the need for batteries or for the cookstove to be plugged into an electricity source. Other innovative cooking solutions provide co-benefits, such as using heat-generated electricity to charge mobile phones or small LED lights.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) is often preferred not just because it is clean, but because it can be turned on and off easily, the flame can be adjusted up or down in real time, there is a status associated with it, and it cooks food quickly. In some regions, cookstoves that allow women to stand up while they cook have been introduced, and is a feature that may be central to their long-term adoption.

Strengthen Supply

Finance At Scale

Creating a thriving global market for clean cookstoves and fuels will require significant capital from a range of players in the financial sector at each stage of the cookstove supply value chain – research and development, manufacturing, marketing, distribution, and financing. The types of support needed range from early stage grant funding for start-up costs, to subsidized capital, angel equity investment, and ultimately commercial capital.

Access Carbon Finance

Carbon finance has the potential to become a game changer in the development of a global market for clean cookstoves and fuels. The revenue generated from the sale of carbon offsets is one of the best near-term means to make advanced cooking solutions affordable to the poor. This changes the funding dynamic of cookstove projects from one that has traditionally focused on subsidized donor aid to that of a financial transaction that attracts investment from the private sector.

Carbon finance requires rigorous monitoring and tracking to ensure cookstoves are used as they were intended, as revenue results from the project only if emissions reductions are realized. This potential income stream creates enormous incentives (once approval is granted for the financing) to keep the cookstoves in operation for as long as possible.

Clean cookstoves can conservatively save one metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions per year under the right conditions, many models can save two to four times that amount. These emission reductions can be certified and sold through global carbon markets, generating significant revenue for the project and providing options for keeping prices low for the consumer.

Carbon Finance Strategy (pdf)

Build An Inclusive Value Chain

The process of building an inclusive value chain entails involving a wide range of stakeholders in the development of new cookstove designs, local manufacturing projects, distribution efforts, marketing techniques, and awareness campaigns, among other areas.

Women are a particularly important component of the value chain as they are responsible for the cooking. They should not be merely seen as end-users, and their inclusion throughout the value chain will increase the successful adoption of clean cookstoves and fuels as well as their long-term use.

Women can be economically empowered by participating in, starting businesses around, and earning income from product design, engineering, manufacturing, marketing, distribution, sales, and other related enterprises, including the use of clean cooking technologies in businesses that involve cooking, such as restaurants and street food sales.

Gather Market Intelligence

A thriving global market for clean cookstoves and fuels is ultimately a collection of healthy local and regional markets – and each of these smaller markets varies in critical ways on both the supply and demand side. The lack of a central source of data or transparency regarding local markets is a major barrier for cookstove businesses, donors, and potential investors.

Better country-level information is needed regarding consumer awareness of clean cookstoves and fuels, attitudes and cooking practices, local and regional use of fuels and technologies, the potential size of the clean cookstove market by segment (i.e., socioeconomic status, rural versus urban), percentage of population currently using clean cookstoves, key stakeholders, and potential local investors and implementation partners (e.g. banks, NGOs, MFIs, religious organizations, or others).

This data gap also leads to inefficiencies, with many organizations spending precious resources to collect and analyze information that other clean cookstove stakeholders may have already gathered. Open source market data collected by a neutral body like the Alliance could be far more effective and efficient than multiple efforts across different local, regional, and national markets.

Ensure Access For Vulnerable Populations

Vulnerable populations such as refugees, the very poor, and other similarly disenfranchised sectors of society in developing countries may not be easily reached by traditional commercial deployment efforts but have much to gain from adoption of clean cookstoves and fuels.

Humanitarian settings present an enormous challenge to cookstove deployment with conflict and severe resource constraints exacerbating existing supply chain barriers. The United Nations estimates that over 80 million people in over 16 million global households are currently displaced as a result of conflict and natural disasters. Adequate financing and effective coordination between cookstove manufacturers, donors, and aid organizations will be critical to ensuring that cookstoves are distributed at scale effectively and fairly to the people who need them.

Discussions with key stakeholders regarding the best approach for transitioning cookstove deployment from disaster or humanitarian relief to market-based approaches is essential to ensuring the establishment of commercial cookstove markets in affected areas. While consumers who purchase their fuel will always constitute the market segment with the lowest hanging fruit for manufacturers due to the clear economic payback, the Alliance and its partners hope to help vulnerable and humanitarian market segments with innovative financing and other deployment mechanisms.

Foster An Enabling Environment

Promote International Standards And Rigorous Testing Protocols

Adoption of globally recognized standards and rigorous testing protocols is one of the most cost-effective measures that can be taken to advance the development of a thriving global market for clean cookstoves.

International Standards: The lack of an accepted definition for what constitutes a clean, efficient, and safe cookstove has had significant consequences for the sector. Without recognized standards, consumers do not know if they are buying a clean or reliable product, while manufacturers of quality cookstoves often see their market share eroded with a flood of cheap copies. In short, the current lack of standards undermines the allocation of resources to the best and most effective clean cookstove programs, which are urgently needed to elevate clean cooking solutions to the status of other proven interventions.

Testing: Testing protocols and corresponding testing centers are an integral part of the effectiveness of standards, as without the means to validate a cookstove’s emissions and efficiency the standards would not be as effective. Regulators and other government authorities also stand to gain from international standards and robust testing protocols. Investors, especially in the carbon markets where revenues depend on cookstoves achieving measurable and durable benefits over several years, may lack confidence regarding promised carbon reductions. Without some objective way to gauge their improvements, bilateral and philanthropic clean cookstove donors also run the risk of promoting poor quality cookstoves that do not deliver promised health and environmental benefits.

Champion The Sector

While the issue of smoke from open fires and rudimentary cookstoves has been around for thousands of years, awareness of the tremendous health, environmental, gender, and economic impacts has been relatively low among the general public, policy makers, and other key stakeholders. Greater awareness of the issue overall is key to developing a robust foundation on which to build the enabling framework to address and arrest a silent killer. Awareness of the benefits from the use of clean cookstoves and fuels has also been very low, making outreach to the general public and policymakers alike a high priority for the sector. While lessons learned from other high-profile issue campaigns such as malaria, polio, and climate change are certainly useful, cookstoves are too different to make direct comparisons and by definition need different marketing tactics and sales strategies for raising awareness.

Document The Evidence Base

While there is new and compelling research to document the significant health, environmental, gender, and economic benefits of clean cooking solutions, important gaps remain in the evidence base for these outcomes. Much more information is required to identify the types of clean cookstoves and fuels that are currently being used, their availability in the market place, and their acceptance by the end-users. In contrast to other health and environmental interventions such as bed nets, vaccines, and clean water, few cost-benefit analyses exist that test the value proposition of clean cookstove use. This is very important as clean cookstove interventions have many co-benefits – health, environment, gender, and economic – that when aggregated create a strong case for cookstove use as an integrated global intervention.

Health Research and Public Health: To validate health claims from clean cookstoves and fuels, the sector must demonstrate that clean cookstove and fuel interventions will result in sufficient declines in related illnesses and deaths. While the link between exposure to cookstove smoke and pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer is well established and linkages of other side effects such as cataracts and low birth-weight are quite convincing, gaps remain in the evidence for some very important health outcomes, including child survival and development, tuberculosis, heart disease, and other cancers. Additionally, almost all existing evidence is based on observational studies, with very little directly measuring the effects of interventions. These limitations need to be addressed to guide intervention strategies, benchmark standards, and to make the most compelling case for large-scale investment in this area, particularly by the health sector.

Climate Research: Large-scale adoption of clean cookstoves, fuels and other cooking solutions can help mitigate climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions from non-sustainable harvesting of biomass, and by lowering emissions from short-lived greenhouses gases and aerosols such as methane, carbon monoxide, and black carbon. However, the sector needs a better understanding and quantification of the net climate impact of cookstove emissions, particularly for short-lived climate forcing agents, as current knowledge of the climate-cookstove relationship remains inadequate. In addition to understanding the impact of these emissions, the sector needs to identify and target regions where the climate benefits from cookstoves will be greatest, such as in those areas with close proximity to glaciers where the emissions of black carbon may have the greatest warming effect.

Gender and Women’s Empowerment Research: Though the link between women’s entrepreneurship, economic growth, and empowerment in general is well established, there is currently a lack of strong data on the impacts of clean cooking solutions on women’s empowerment. More research is needed to understand the factors that influence clean cookstove adoption and use by women, including design and socio-cultural factors, as well as how time saved from use of clean cookstoves is spent. New empirical research and the development of case studies are essential to strengthen the case for clean cookstoves as an effective intervention. Current and future project implementers will benefit from the development of best practices related to gender and women’s empowerment, including those that utilize effective empowerment tools, such as capacity building and training.

Engage All Stakeholders

International engagement around a common strategy for fostering the adoption of clean cookstoves and fuels is essential, but equally important are efforts to mobilize engagement at the national and local level.

Country Specific Efforts: Country-specific efforts have been most effective when a cross-section of ministries, private sector partners, academics, and NGO stakeholders have coalesced around a common strategy or campaign with the resources to sustain advocacy, outreach, and implementation efforts. Peru and Indonesia have launched national cookstove initiatives and are encouraging cookstove adoption through a wide variety of mechanisms, including:

  • Integrating cookstove and fuel programs into broader government policies and activities on health care, education, environment, and energy;
  • Launching government and non-profit awareness raising and education campaigns;
  • Instituting support for better cookstove design, standards and testing, and capacity building along the value chain; and
  • Providing clean cookstoves to vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and refugee populations.

The sector needs to build on these initiatives by replicating lessons learned, helping successful programs reach scale, and ensuring their inclusion as a national priority.

Develop Credible Monitoring and Evaluation Systems

Careful monitoring and evaluation of clean cookstove adoption programs is critical for observing progress and measuring the impact of the sector’s work. Clearly understood and transparent indicators must be developed that can cost-effectively measure results from the most basic project parameters like cookstove sales, adoption rates, household air pollution, fuel collection time, and fuel and cost savings, to broader objectives regarding saving lives, empowering women, improving livelihoods, and combating climate change. These efforts must be applicable to all geographies and target markets as well as to the majority of cookstove distribution efforts.

The challenge will be to develop a system for measuring progress and success toward our goals while simultaneously addressing evidence gaps and facilitating improvement over time. Standards, testing and research will all play integral roles in the Alliance’s approach to M&E, particularly as we determine the extent to which stoves at different ‘tiers’ of performance with respect to efficiency, safety, and emissions count towards the 100 million adoption target.

During Phase 1 (2012-2014), success towards ‘saving lives’ will be assessed by estimating reductions in exposure attributable to the adoption of clean cookstoves and fuels. As research that better quantifies the health, climate, livelihood, and gender benefits of clean cookstoves and fuels becomes available in Phase 2 (2015-2017), we will be able to model impacts. By Phase 3 (2018-2020), the Alliance expects to be able to measure declines in cookstove-related illness and injury.