Improved Cookstoves

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The Complexity of Cleaner Cookstoves: Challenges ranging from Improving Livelihoods to Managing Carbon Credits

Traditional cooking stoves are not merely a technical solution for the need to cook for more than 3 billion people who still rely on the burning of solid biomass. They are rather the centerpiece of family lives, deeply rooted in culture, serving a variety of needs including heating and lighting.

At the same time, they are also the source for emissions that significantly impact public health and climate change. When implementing improved cooking stoves a variety of aspects have to be taken into account, spanning issues from user involvement, stove technicalities and performance, the climate science behind it to managing carbon credits.

The session aimed at providing an overarching perspective on the multi-facetted complexity of implementing cleaner cookstoves. Three aspects, user involvement, financing aspects, and health and climate implications, were highlighted in expert presentations. Thereafter, all session attendees were involved in an open and intensive discussion elaborating on further issues. The key question was: “Why is realizing large-scale implementation so difficult despite long-term experience, improved technology and innovative financing options?”


CDM methodology and monitoring

When asked about the certificate prices on the voluntary and compliance carbon market, Maren Kuegler, Freelancer for Atmosfair, stated that the official price on the EU-ETS is below one Euro. On the voluntary market this is different. It could cost around 20€/tonCO2equ. Providers on the voluntary carbon market are able to charge this price for carbon credits when credits have an additional certification, e.g. the Gold Standard, which is certifying a high environmental and social standard for emission reduction projects

When asked if air pollution is considered in CDM cooking stove projects, Ms. Kuegler stated that it is a topic of the Gold Standard Verification. But air pollution monitoring does not happen in form of measuring emissions of black carbon and other health risking emissions. What is being done is asking people if they recognized any improvements regarding this issue.

The focus on black carbon in cookstove projects

Maheshwar Rupakheti, Institute for Advance Sustainability Studies e.V., was highlighting the issue of black carbon in his presentation. Emissions of black carbon can be reduced tremendously with efficiency cookstoves. So far this issue is not playing a role in any measurements of CDM projects. From a climate perspective black carbon is two thousand times more intensive in its global warming effect than carbon dioxide. This should be taken into account, while it also has to be kept in mind that black carbon is a serious threat for people who are in close contact with it. The audience discussed the idea of developing a CDM-Methodology which is recognizing the savings of black carbon emissions in cookstove projects. It was stated that there are problems with accounting black carbon under climate mechanisms because of its relatively short live span. As black carbon is only lasting several weeks in the atmosphere, its warming potential is only relevant on regional scale.

The question of how to measure black carbon was answered by Maheshwar Rupakheti .When a control computer is in use, it is possible to measure black carbon simply by taking pictures with mobile phones and sent it to a control computer. Therefore, monitoring black carbon could be time and cost efficient for project implementers. But a control computer is necessary. In order to that monitoring black carbon isn’t possible in areas without electricity or a computer.

Where should the focus lie when it comes to cookstove projects?

Monika Rammelt, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, raised the question if we really need black carbon or any other big thing coming up, to implement coo stove projects. Isn’t it enough to highlight social and health related improvements for pushing project implementation? Julia Schmale replied by stating that black carbon could definitely be a great chance, not because of climate effects, but because of health issues. Christian Lietke from GIZ emphasized to differentiate and take a closer look on buying decisions of people in project areas. Health is not a big issue for consumer decisions and it will not be a reason for people to buy a stove. Ariane Krause, a member of the Postgraduate Program Microenergy Systems, argued that everyone involved in cook stove projects has to act within his or her own possibilities. We should act now, but also think of future issues which could support financing and implementation of projects. Maheshwar Rupakheti agreed that the focus in project organization has to be broadened. The health aspect is not to underestimate. All benefits regarding climate, environment, health and socio-economic s have to be taken into account.

A person from the audience forwarded the potential of stainless steel for cooking stove projects. Because it is very long lasting, it could improve the performance of cooking stoves significantly. As South Africa is an important exporter of stainless steel, the product could be used for projects all over the continent.

Course questions: what are the big challenges/ hurdles for implementing stoves?

According to Monika Rammelt the low demand for cooking stoves in potential project countries is too low. People do not know about the multiple benefits of cooking stoves and are not seeing it as profitable investment. This is why demand creation is a key issue. Shestated that it would help if there would be more knowledge transfer on cooking stoves. Awareness raising should happen in form of highlighting benefits of cooking stoves for local people in project regions. People should know why it is worth to spend money on cooking stoves. Therefore, good marketing is crucial.

Maheshwar Rupakheti also highlighted the importance of awareness raising, which could be done by giving good examples in project implementation. People will best see the benefits of cooking stoves, when someone in their area is happy about his product.Furthermore sufficient technology is important, as well as a good supply chain and areliable finance system.

For Maren Kuegler it is about getting to know what people like. In a specific project in Lesotho buyers mentioned that the “beauty” of the cooker design influenced their buying decision. For her, it is also very important to have reliable implementing partners in the project countries.

From the audience it was furthermore stated that open science data and good networks between researchers and project implementers are very important.


Julia Schmale was summing up the drivers for cooking stove project implementation. At first, the aim was to improve people’s livelihood. Social benefits have been in the center of attention. Later on, climate aspects have become the center of attention, which was closely related to new finance mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol. Nowadays it is still possible to integrate social aspects in monitoring programs.But in the end, the useris the one who should be in center of attention.