Facts on Cooking Energy

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Cooking Energy System | Basics | Policy Advice | Planning | Designing and Implementing ICS Supply | Designing and Implementing Woodfuel Supply | Climate Change | Extra

Cooking Energy - Introduction and Reason for focussing on biomass energy

  • Every person needs food to sustain their lives. The vast majority of staple foods, 95%[1], need cooking before they can be eaten and most people cook 2-3 times per day, EVERY day.
  • In 2018, about 2.8[2] billion people use biomass fuels for cooking. These fuels include firewood, charcoal, dung, and agricultural residues.
  • Cooking energy accounts for about 90% of all household energy consumption in developing countries.
  • Frequently, biomass fuels are the only available energy source, especially in rural areas. In most Sub-Saharan countries, more than 80% of the population depend on biomass fuels for their daily cooking.
  • Biomass fuels are mainly burned on inefficient open fires and traditional stoves.
  • Despite massive efforts aimed at substitution and electrification, the number of people relying on biomass is decreasing only slightely. It is estimated that by 2030, 2.52 billion people will still cook with biomass.
  • Despite the important role of biomass for cooking, it is considered 'dirty' and 'backward' and seldom associated with 'modern energy'. Yet, biomass is here to stay.

Disadvantages of Biomass

  • In many cases, the demand for biomass fuels far outweighs sustainable supply. This can contribute to deforestation, land degradation and desertification.
  • Unclean burning leads to emissions.
  • Dwindling resources lead to an additional workload for women and children as they have to spend more time searching for firewood. The fuel they find is often of a lower grade and thus burns with more smoke and less heat.
  • Every year, the smoke from open fires and traditional stoves - leading to indoor air pollution - kills about 4.3 million people. Thus, every 8 seconds, someone (mostly women and children) is dying due to inefficient use of biomass fuel.
  • Fuelwood is often collected on a daily basis and has no time to dry before use. This makes the use less efficient as some heat is wasted to drive the moisture out of the wood. Moist fuel results in more smoke.

Advantages of Biomass

  • Biomass is a renewable source of energy - if produced in a sustainable manner. Efficient planting guarantees that supply meets demand.
  • In most regions of the world, people use wood or some form of biomass fuel. With the right stove, the majority of these fuels can be burned without further processing.
  • Usually biomass fuels are easily accessible. Collecting firewood seems to be cheaper than alternative fuels such as gas, paraffin, and electricity. Thus, biomass fuels are more affordable to the poor.
  • Biomass is within reach of users. Users do not depend on providers, utilities or imports as for fossil fuels.
  • Fuel preparation behaviour is often more important in reducing emissions than the technology itself.

Technologies for the Efficient Use of Biomass

  • Technologies and techniques for sustainable production and efficient use of biomass energy are available. Further scaling up of these techniques and technologies is needed.
  • Biomass fuels will remain the most important source of energy for the next decades. The best way to burn them efficiently and sustainably is the use of clean-burning and efficient stoves.
  • A well-designed improved household stove, which is properly used, can save up to 60% of fuel compared to the traditional three-stone fire.
  • Well-designed energy-efficient stoves emit very little smoke, provided that improved efficiency is due in part to improved combustion. A large number of stoves are efficient because of the way heat is directed at the pot (heat transfer efficiency), rather than by improved combustion (combustion efficiency). It is important to ensure that both combustion efficiency and heat transfer efficiency are improved when designing a stove.
  • Improved technologies range from artisanal or factory-produced biomass burning stoves to solar cookers, heat retaining cookers, and stoves using green fuels such as ethanol or biogas.

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Cooking Energy and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

'Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development' was adopted at the UN Summit for Sustainable Development on 25 September 2015. The agenda includes a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030.

Energy is finally being recognized as a key enabler for development under Goal 7. Universal access to energy, a higher share of renewable energy and massive improvements in energy efficiency are now part of the top global priorities for sustainable development in the years to come. Access to affordable and reliable Cooking Energy is explicitly mentioned under Goal 7.1.2

Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all [4]

7.1 By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy service

  • Indicator 7.1.1 Percentage of the population with access to electricity
  • Indicator 7.1.2 Proportion of population with primary reliance on clean fuels and technology (“Clean” is defined by the emission rate targets and specific fuel recommendations included in the normative guidance WHO guidelines for indoor air quality: household fuel combustion)[5].

Further reading: Energy and the Sustainable Development Goals

The GACC lists 10 of the SDG that clean cooking can directly deliver gains across: SDG 1, 2, 3,4,  5, 7, 8, 11, 13, 15. Clean Cooking could serve as a key driver of SDGs success.[3]
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Cooking Energy Initiatives on the International and Regional Agenda

Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All)

In 2011, Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon launched the initiative 'Sustainable Energy for All'.

SE4All wants to achieve the following goals by 2030:

  1. Energy access for all (in particular electricity and cooking energy)
  2. Doubling the annuall growth rate of energy efficiency
  3. Doubling the share of renewable energies in the global energy portfolio

Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves / Alliance for Clean Cooking

'The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves' was presented in 2010 in the margins of the UN summit on the Millennium Development Goals in New York. The Alliance’s goal ‘100 by 20’ calls for 100 million homes to adopt clean and efficient stoves and fuels by 2020.

In October 2018, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves changed their name into Clean Cooking Alliance.

Africa Clean Cooking Energy Solutions Initiative (ACCES)

To support large-scale dissemination and adoption of clean cook stoves in Sub-Saharan Africa, the World Bank has established the Africa Clean Cooking Energy Solutions Initiative. It seeks to improve health conditions, counteract climate change and decrease negative socio-economic impacts of traditional cooking stoves by introducing clean cooking technologies and clean cooking fuels. ACCESS promotes clean cooking through a "consultative, integrated, enterprise-based approach".

Energising Development (EnDev)

The 'Energising Development' (EnDev) programme is a multi-donor partnership, currently financed and governed by the governments of the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Australia, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Sweden. EnDev promotes sustainable access to modern energy services for households, social institutions and small to medium-sized enterprises in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. EnDev has taken a leading role in developing local markets for clean burning cookstoves. The GIZ contributes to the EnDev-programme as the leading implementing agency.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Cooking energy programmes are linked to the UNFCCC through actions to conserve forests and promote renewable energy sources. There has been a lot of interest recently in carbon credit financing for improved stove projects. Since 2006, stove organizations have begun to receive funding from carbon credits.

West African Clean Cooking Alliance (WACCA)

The ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREE) officially launched the West African Clean Cooking Alliance in October 2012. The initiative's objective is "to provide access to efficient, sustainable and affordable cooking energy in the entire ECOWAS region". This objective shall be achieved by the introduction of policies and frameworks, capacity building, harmonisation of standards and labelling, and the promotion of networking and knowledge sharing.

Country Examples



A very encouraging example of what can be achieved through the combination of political will, funding for implementation, and technical assistance was the national campaign in Peru:

The national campaign "Half a million improved cooking stoves for a smoke free Peru" ("Medio Millón de Cocinas Mejoradas: Por un Perú sin Humo") was launched in June 2009 and ended in 2011. The partnership was formed by public and private institutions, such as the Presidency, several Ministries, regional and local governments, GIZ, private companies, universities, and NGOs. The majority of the rural population of Peru use traditional biomass for cooking. The goal was to install 500,000 stoves until 2011. For stoves to be considered improved stoves and to be disseminated as part of the campaign, they must meet certain quality standards: fast cooking time, energy efficiency, carbon emissions, security, and acceptance by the population. All the stoves boil 5 litres of water within half an hour and reduce the contamination in the kitchen by up to 90 %.

The objectives of the campaign were:

  • provide a framework to facilitate the inclusion and strengthening of public, private, and international cooperation initiatives and partnerships;
  • facilitate coordination, exchange of experiences and technical assistance strategies, management, logistics, processes, models of intervention, monitoring, and technology;
  • ensure quality and proper use of improved stoves certified in the process.
Improved cookstove Paucamayo, Cajamarca.JPG
Improved cookstove in Paucamayo, Cajamarca.

For a smoke-free Peru - The impact of clean cookstoves

The smoke produced by traditional stoves in households in rural areas has harmful effects on the health of the whole family. It is a problem that affects almost one third of the population of our country.

In recent decades, various actors from civil society, academic institutions and international cooperation organizations have promoted the use of clean cookstoves in our country. They have undertaken small initiatives to replace traditional stoves.

However, we faced a major problem: There are more than two million families who are affected by these toxic gases inside their homes, actually a number that exceeds the effort of any private endeavor.

To have a real impact on the welfare of the people it was necessary to join efforts and work together with the public sector.

We strive to merge the various efforts in the public and private sector to give flight to a partnership that would allow us to place the issue in the agenda of the government: A National Campaign of Clean Cookstoves for a Smoke-free Peru.

We received the attention of the public sector, since it was necessary to create a regulatory framework that would allow the replacement of traditional stoves by certified clean cookstoves. It was then that the Clean Cookstove Technical Standard was adopted, which established construction standards. In addition, a public agency was also designated to ensure and certify the permissible limits of emissions (SENCICO).

The campaign began to bear fruit: in 2009 an Emergency Decree was authorized, dictating that regional and local governments could invest 2.5% of the taxes and royalties from mining (CANON) in the construction of certified clean cookstoves.

By 2012, the campaign reached nearly 250,000 households throughout the country, representing about one million healthier Peruvians.

In addition, there is an added value in the field of certified clean cookstoves: they help preserve the environment because they emanate less carbon dioxide and use less fuel.

It is also necessary to note that all the progress of this initiative was achieved through the combined efforts expressed through a forum for dialogue and inter-agency coordination that always characterized the campaign.

Now we seek to eliminate all smoke from households

Despite the progress in replacing traditional stoves, still nearly two million families in rural and peri-urban communities maintain traditional cooking practices, putting their health in jeopardy and affecting the environment. The goal of the campaign was to replace half a million stoves, and in three years of efforts, we reached almost 250,000.

However, it is not enough to remove only the smoke produced by traditional stoves at home. We must remove any device that generates harmful pollutants to human health, namely candles and oil lamps. This would be an extensive action -in terms of health- and it is the one we strive for now. It's time to expand our ideas and propose a comprehensive approach to remove all the smoke from homes.

It is clear that all issues raised must go hand in hand with public policy, because we know that major problems must be addressed jointly.

If we want to endure, we must seek sustainability

We are aware that for generations, families in rural areas have developed practices that require no stove maintenance or cleaning. By contrast, clean cookstoves are a technology that requires some technical education, ranging from design and construction, to proper use and maintenance. Only then can the stoves guarantee their benefits and achieve their utility. For this reason, it is necessary to enhance intervention plans to incorporate activities that ensure sustainability and that clean cookstove users take ownership of this new technology.

From this mass strategy of clean cookstoves, there are success stories of local companies who represent pioneering experiences in the markets of Arequipa, Andahuaylas, Cajamarca, Moquegua and San Martin.

However, they are still insufficient in terms of the potential demand in the country. We must promote the strengthening of local capacity in the formation of companies, a factor which contributes to local development through employment and production.

Number of cookstoves in Peru.jpg
Number of cookstoves in Peru

Cooking Energy and Focal Areas of Development Cooperation

At least since September 2015, universal Access to Energy is on every national energy agenda as well as on the list of international development cooperation. Energy for all means a) providing access to electricity for more than one fifth of the worlds' population. But the more challenging is b) providing access to sustainable, affordable and cleaner cooking energy for more than one third of the worlds' population. Access to modern cooking energy contributes to many sectors of international Development Cooperation. It can improve the situation related to education, health, rural development, good governance, and sustainable economic development in the following ways:

Education – Particularly Basic Education

  • An increase in the numbers of women and children with a basic education is promoted through:
    - Decreasing the workload (fuel collection and cooking) of women and children, can lead to higher attendance and less fatigue, which facilitates learning at school.
    - Healthy children do not miss out on education, so the cycle of poverty can be broken through better qualifications in the next generation.
  • A child with a full stomach learns better than a child with an empty one: school feeding programs can provide more food or better quality food if they save on fuel expenses.
  • The education sector can foster increased awareness about cooking and renewable energy:
    - Integrating cooking energy information into school curricula, thereby educating more children directly, and indirectly sensitizing parents and neighbours about cooking energy issues.
    - Increasing knowledge and awareness about environmental, health, and economic issues by instigating cooking energy awareness campaigns.

Health – Including Family Planning & HIV / Aids

Every year, more than four million people die due to diseases caused by indoor air pollution (IAP) and a substantial number of children suffer serious burns.

The utilisation of clean burning stoves can lead to:

  • A reduction in mortality and morbidity, especially among women and children, through:
    - A reduction of respiratory diseases.
    - A reduction of eye diseases.
    - Less health hazards for pregnant women and infants.
    - Relief for HIV/Aids patients and families through reduced respiratory ailments, improved nutrition, and hot water for hygiene purposes.
    - Reduced risk of accidental burns especially for children through provision of safer stoves and kitchens.
  • Healthy people are generally more productive, enabling some people to break the vicious circle of poverty.
  • Children suffering respiratory ailments due to IAP are a financial burden, particularly in female-headed households. In households with children suffering from respiratory alignments, women care for their children rather than earning income, but need additional money for medication.
  • With efficient stoves, families have more energy available for the same amount of fuel. This additional energy can be used for boiling water to remove pathogens.

Rural Development - Integrated Approaches

  • Access to affordable and reliable cooking energy allows for rural development activities such as:
    - income generation in rural areas: If people spend less time for fuel collection and cooking, they are able to spend more time on productive activities. New jobs are created in rural areas by decentralized production of efficient cookstoves.
    - improving living standards: money saved on fuel is used for education and convenience goods.
    - improving health: People who are less effected by smoke are more likely to work and foster rural development.
    - improving food security in rural areas: Since 95 % of all daily food requires energy (cooking, baking, and drying). Energy efficient stoves can save between 40 and 80 % of fuel and increasing fuel availability for food preparation can facilitate more regular and nutritious meals, especially for families coping with fuelwood shortages.
    - improving levels of basic education: In rural areas, time and energy saved through improved cookstoves enable children to focus on their education.
  • Access to affordable and reliable cooking energy also allows for conservation and sustainable utilisation of natural resources:
    - reduction of deforestation, soil degradation, and erosion
    - reduction of dung needed as a fuel, thereby enabling dung to be used as a fertilizer on fields, yielding a more productive harvest
    - re-afforestation measures to support sustainable wood fuel supply, for instance by planting multi-purpose trees for fuelwood, fruit production and animal fodder
    - introduction of sustainable forest management systems as source of income
    - encouraging the shift to alternative renewable cooking fuels (green fuels), such as ethanol, biogas and solar energy

Good Governance - Democracy, Civil Society, Public Services

  • Decentralised provision of basic energy services empowers community government structures, which in turn promote sustainable cooking energy supplies and efficient energy use.
  • Political participation of the poor can increase if less time is spent collecting firewood.
  • More women are becoming stove users and producers, thereby improving their working conditions and status in both the family and the community. This happens through:
    - reducing their daily workload
    - increasing their participation and decision-making power
    - enabling ownership of technologies, through improved equipment and know-how
    - enabling income generation through production of cooking energy technologies.

Sustainable Economic Development

  • Establishment of new market opportunities for energy efficient technologies, thereby creating additional business opportunities in stove production and sales for both men and women.
  • Improved infrastructure through better access to affordable basic energy services enhances small business development.
  • Less money spent on fuel leads to an increased share of the household budget available for productive use for income generation.
  • Efficient stoves save time which can be used in a productive way such as food production in gardens and on farm land, food processing, poultry raising, establishing a tree nursery, etc.
  • Small restaurants save a lot of money by using energy-saving stoves. This money can be invested into the restaurant, improving food quality or simply leading to more income.
  • Food processing using energy efficient technologies (like solar dryers) increases agricultural value chains and income generation.
  • Re-afforestation measures and sustainable wood fuel production can be an additional source of income for farmers.
  • Access to energy contributes to reducing poverty in a sustainable manner and therefore helps to reach the SDGs. Efficient cooking stoves in particular can provide some of the most vulnerable people worldwide with access to modern energy.
    Creating local markets for efficient cookstoves leads to structural changes within the region, but it also affects global challenges. Increasing energy efficiency reduces greenhouse gas emissions and saves fuels to prolong the existance of environmental resources worldwide.

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Lessons Learnt from Improved Cookstove Projects

Disseminating improved cookstoves is not per se a success story despite the fact that they have several advantages compared to traditional cooking technologies. For example, in a recent study of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in India, the benefit of providing clean cookstoves to poor households was rather disappointing. Improved stoves were sold to 2600 households at a subsidized price of 75 US cents, whereas the real price of the stove was 12.50 USD. The usage of these subsidized stoves were lower than expected right from the beginning and declined significantly over time. Households generally did not make maintenance investments (e.g., cleaning the chimney) to keep the stoves operational. Most households continued to use their traditional stoves.
Over the time, when the improved stove detoriated, the use of the traditional stove became more and more dominant. Consequently, the introduction of the improved stove soon failed to reduce firewood consumption, indoor air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Similar results are known from other studies. Therefore, it is important to analyse the reasons why certain stove projects failed despite major potential benefits and to understand the barriers to adoption and proper use.

The lessons formulated here contain the essence of many years of GIZ experience in assistance to development, production, and dissemination of locally produced improved cookstoves and were crucial in the development of GIZ’s current approaches.
This analysis includes impact assessment studies of projects practising “results based monitoring” in order to ensure that the intended development results were actually achieved. This means, that these “lessons learnt“ do not only focus on the planning, development, production, and dissemination of improved cook stoves, but also provide an analysis of the effectiveness of the monitoring system in order to improve and speed up the dissemination process in the future. Many of these ‘lessons learnt’ may sound obvious, but they are essential to provide long-term sustainability.

Planning and policy level:

  • An in-depth feasibility study which looks carefully into the various interrelated aspects (poverty-alleviation, gender, cost-benefit calculations, lifestyle improvement, technical efficiency, environmental impact, policy) which affect the implementation process will be instrumental in assuring adequate planning.
  • Continuous monitoring and flexibility in planning is a necessary but not sufficient prerequisite for being able to react quickly to planning mistakes. Time for the project personnel to react to the consequences of such mistakes also plays a major role.
  • Integrated concepts which are complementary to other developmental activities, create synergy effects, are cost-effective and bring results more rapidly.
  • At a development policy level, sound economic analyses, which prove the positive cost-benefit relations of using improved cook stoves, are a good way to convince decision makers of the relevance of clean and efficient energy provision and its relationship with other aspects of development to reach the SDGs.
  • A participatory approach, which recognizes the importance of gender relations, provides the best chances for a new technology to be accepted. However, it is a subject that has to be carefully monitored. In Kenya, for instance, it was found that as soon as stove building became more profitable, more men took over the job of liner production and stove building. They were more successful as they could travel more easily while women had other household duties to perform. This is an important fact which should be monitored carefully. Strategies should be developed to give women an equal chance to profit from the production and sale of stoves.

Product Development:

  • To make a cookstove acceptable to the end-users, it has to have high quality standards, i.e. be available, affordable, reliable, and bring measurable advantages in terms of money or time savings, reduction of indoor air pollution or ease of practical use.
  • Products must be attractive, modern, and desirable in the eyes of the users.
  • Products must be easy to use and maintain
  • A serious and frequently-encountered problem is that most people consider their stove still functional even if it is in poor condition. People prefer them to the 3-stone fire, mainly because they could do other things while the food was cooking. Here, repeated awareness raising is necessary to show the relationship between stove condition and efficiency.
  • The lifetime of a stove depends on the quality of the basic materials and on how well it is maintained. This should be monitored carefully and continuously until a high quality product can be assured.
  • Where stoves are only produced seasonally (rainy or dry period, depending on the work to be done in the fields), the comparatively lower production endangers the quality of the stove, as skills are not always fully developed or kept up
  • On the organizational level, producers and stove builders should form professional organizations where the importance of quality labelling, providing warranties and user awareness are discussed and organized.
  • A functional networking system optimises knowledge transfer and South-South exchange. Through project exchange visits, the learning effect is often higher than in a training course situation.
  • International stove standards are in the process of being developed. They will need to be adapted to the specific situation in each country and regularly brought up to date.

Dissemination Approach:

  • A fully commercial approach is the most important step in achieving long-term sustainability. It should be practiced from the very beginning wherever possible, unless special circumstances (refugee situations, environmental catastrophes) prevent this option.
  • The most crucial indicator for sustainability is the timely replacement of the stove by the user after its lifetime has expired.
  • A dissemination structure where organizations are paid on the basis of the number of stoves built, bears the danger of failure, because where quantity goes before quality there may be insufficient time to properly train the producers and users and get them acquainted with good maintenance.
  • A strong focus on advisory and technical support for the partners may be more important than giving only financial assistance. Sound training of local technical and marketing expertise is the best guarantee of having a successful project in the long run.
  • For NGOs to be motivated and effective, they should have the chance to earn money through the sale of the product.
  • Appropriate incentives and adequate monitoring are key factors for success when disseminating a technology. In order to achieve a sustainable market development and long-lasting impacts, it is necessary to set up independent control mechanisms independent of the financing institutions.
  • There is a limit to the number of cooperating partner organizations that can be effectively monitored. Involving too many partners at the same time may jeopardise effective dissemination, because effective monitoring may no longer be possible.
  • Changing dissemination strategies in the course of a project should only take place after intensive discussion with the artisans and the users to make sure that everyone understands the reasoning behind the change and they are ready not only to accept, but decide favourably by themselves.

Marketing and Financing:

  • There is a need for government or donors to support the responsible partner organisations for at least five (better ten) years. It takes time to overcome old habits and establish new local structures for necessities such as technical and business training, research, promotion, and monitoring activities. The average costs for maintenance services on the other hand should be included in the price of the stove, or there should be set rates for maintenance services.
  • It is more advantageous to offer micro-credit opportunities and longer payment periods than building stoves for free, branding the user as poor and not being able to afford a quality product. Psychologically, it is better to advertise the product as modern, healthy, attractive, something everyone ‘must have’ - and then make sure that it is affordable even for the less wealthy.
  • Independent stove producers, who are known to produce high quality products and have learned to promote it by labelling their products and advertising it, should be able to competitively market their stoves.
  • Saving fuel wood, money and time, and smoke reduction are the most important benefits reported by small businesses like restaurants or bakeries.
  • Many users still lack knowledge of the health benefits of smoke-reduced cooking with an efficient cookstove. Local health services should be involved in spreading this message and health monitoring should be planned and carried out jointly.

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Further Information


This article was originally published by GIZ HERA. It is basically based on experiences, lessons learned and information gathered by GIZ cook stove projects. You can find more information about the authors and experts of the original “Cooking Energy Compendium” in the Imprint.

The article on improved cookstoves in Peru was originally published by EnDev Peru in the first issue of the Amaray Magazine - Energising Development Peru published in August 2012 (File:AMARAY N°1 August 2012).

  1. Energy for the Poor: Underpinning the Millennium Development Goals, DFID (August 2002), http://www.ecn.nl/fileadmin/ecn/units/bs/JEPP/energyforthepoor.pdf
  2. 2020 Tracking SDG7 Report Chapter 2 on Clean Cooking https://trackingsdg7.esmap.org/data/files/download-documents/03-sdg7-chapter2-accesstocleanfuelsandtech4cooking.pdf
  3. Global Alliance of Clean Cooking, https://tinyurl.com/SDGcooking

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