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Promoting the Use of Clean Stoves in the Developing World
Lee-Roy Chetty   Dec 18, 2012   Ethical Technology  

Promoting the use of clean stoves in the developing world can contribute to the broader development objectives of reducing poverty, improving health and gender equality, and mitigating climate change.

Replacing fuel-inefficient, polluting stoves with those that have better energy-combustion properties can help poor households climb out of poverty by reducing their fuel expenses.

The health of family members who spend long hours in the household cooking environment—primarily women and their young children—benefit from reduced indoor air pollution. Women’s freed-up time from walking to collect fuel wood and preparing meals with traditional cook-stoves can be spent on more productive activities. The local ecosystem and global environment also benefit from fewer particulate and carbon emissions and less black carbon due to the burning of solid fuels.

To achieve these impacts, incentive programs could be linked to a verifiable output.

This could include certified clean stoves sold to and used by households. In addition, critical to the success of a clean stove initiative would be technical assistance activities for strategy and policy development, capacity building, institutional strengthening, and awareness raising campaigns to ensure the long term success and effectiveness of such an initiative.

In the past, clean stove programs have followed public procurement procedures, meaning that public entities have been responsible for making stove technical specifications and identifying eligible service providers, delivery methods, and end users to receive subsidised stoves.

This flexibility has proved crucial to stoves market development since stoves must fit local conditions, including customary cooking practices, affordability, and availability of local resources and after-sales service. The success of stove suppliers depends on understanding such local conditions.

Defining a clean stove requires establishing a standards or rating system, testing, certification and incentive protocols.

The standards/rating system should consider compatibility with the rating framework provided by the International Workshop Agreement, which includes four performance indicators which would include efficiency, indoor emissions measurements, overall emissions measurements and safety.

Laboratory and field testing must also be included, and the certification process should be transparent and fair. A research centre or University with multiple functions, which would include - testing, education, research and development, and advisory service for design development - could host the testing centres to ensure their sustainability.

Competitions could also be organised to identify top-performance stoves.
The level of incentive should be linked to stove performance and its disbursement to evaluation and verification of results. Eligibility criteria should be clearly outlined and the amount adjusted according to the level of stove performance and geographic preferences.

Those who apply for incentives (the market aggregators) are those willing to take investment and performance risks. These may include producers, wholesalers, retailers, and project sponsors.

To receive payment, they must produce stoves that can be certified as “clean,” design according to customer preferences, and convince customers to buy and use the stoves. Design of an incentive payment system requires a thorough understanding of the cost structure and profit margin (supply side) and consumers’ willingness to pay (demand side), as well as the economic benefits of the incentive provided. Advance disbursements could be designed to help finance stove suppliers. The incentives could be implemented through a financial institution to leverage the existing network and traditional financing instruments.

Institutionalising clean stoves would also be an important step toward providing an enabling environment.

Technical assistance in capacity building is also needed to improve the performance of all market players, ranging from designers and producers to market aggregators, financiers/ investors, testing professionals, and monitoring and verification specialists.

To motivate both supply and demand, awareness raising campaigns could also be conducted at all relevant levels. Campaigns could focus on informing decision and policy makes within a developing world context about the program and the availability of results based subsidies and other associated program benefits and raising awareness about the negative health impacts of indoor air pollution linked to biomass cooking smoke.

Lee-Roy Chetty holds a masters degree in media studies from the University of Cape Town and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. A two-time recipient of the National Research Fund Scholarship, he is currently completing his PhD at UCT and an economics degree with Unisa.


I think it’s important that IEET publishes articles like this alongside the more futuristic and philosophical pieces. I love reading about the wonders of the future but we mustn’t forget that there are present day real-world problems that need solutions now. That these solutions are often less eye-catching than the technological hopes and fears articles doesn’t of course detract from their importance. We need to be reminded that sometimes solutions come from a relatively low-tech hands-on approach and that we don’t need to wait for robots, mind uploading, the singularity or artificial intelligence, etc. to be able to do something now.

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