Implementing the right policies to replace wood and charcoal stoves could avert at least 463,000 deaths and $66 billion in healthcare costs annually in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a recent study published in the journal Natural durability. Today, approximately 2.4 billion people around the world have little or no access to clean cooking options.
“Markets alone fail dramatically to deliver on the promise of clean cooking. Achieving a better alignment between the use of household cooking technology and the socially, even privately, optimal use of technology will therefore require more than just adjusting markets,” the researchers wrote. “On the contrary, concerted and coordinated political action that simultaneously tackles multiple barriers and obstacles seems necessary.”
Only 17% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa use gas stoves, which emit fewer air pollutants than wood or charcoal stoves. Although clean cooking is one of the targets of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the number of people who still live without access to clean cooking has increased by 50% over the past two decades. Providing access to electric and gas stoves in the Global South will require a net capital investment of $7.5 billion.
“It may seem high, but it only represents about 0.5% of what is spent each year in the world on energy investments,” said one of the authors of the study, Francesco Fuso-Nerini, director from the KTH Climate Action Center at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, in a press release.
The researchers further wrote in their study, “A large and expanding literature highlights barriers that impede wider adoption of clean cooking technology, such as underdeveloped supply networks, the need for other energy services offered by traditional fuels (e.g. heating and affordability constraints, among others). .
To estimate and dig deeper into the benefits of making universal clean cooking a reality in Sub-Saharan Africa, the team developed an open source spatial tool, OnStove, which can compare different clean cooking solutions and their potential effectiveness in specific locations.
The benefits considered by OnStove are reduced emissions, mortality, morbidity and time savings. As well as the costs of the fuels needed for the clean stoves and also, the costs of operation and maintenance. The researchers then compared nine types of stoves in three categories which included a variety of wood and charcoal stoves, LPG, electric and biogas stoves.
The OnStove analysis showed that biomass and wood or charcoal stoves had negligible social and financial benefits. “In sub-Saharan Africa, 83% of the population mainly uses traditional stoves. This points to the extreme disconnect between stove options that are ideal for social well-being and those that people actually use,” the researchers wrote.
The daily collection of wood and other biomass for traditional stoves requires 1.3 hours of work per day. Most often, it is women and children who are responsible for collecting fuel. The result is forest degradation over the years and extremely high levels of indoor air pollution that caused an estimated 700,000 deaths in Africa in 2019.
Given that only 48% of people in sub-Saharan Africa have access to electricity, researchers suggested LPG stoves as the most viable clean cooking option for 67% of the population and only 31% for electric stoves.
The OnStove project research team began working with the United Nations Foundation’s Clean Cooking Alliance and the World Resource Institute to use their geospatial tool to help the governments of Nepal and Kenya implement policies energy sources for the transition to clean cooking technologies.