The cookstove/solar divide.

Investment in new technologies has produced a large volume of work over the last 30 years on improved biomass cookstoves. This work has led to large scale projects with accompanying emissions standards. At the same time, the reduction in price and the use of LEDs had led to a similarly large volume of work on solar lighting. At our current tipping point we find that rarely do these two bodies of specialisation overlap. Few if any have begun to ask if ‘solar electric cooking’ is even viable. There is a legacy of thought that needs to be tackled by actor networking and solid research.

 The role of expenditure substitution. Solar lighting programmes often make economic sense for the household because they substitute for kerosene or candle expenditure. Some solar programmes then seek to increase the power output to cover fridge, television and other appliances, which improves the quality of life for the household but do not usually make economic savings. In contrast power outputs that substitute for cooking make a clear economic argument for the household. We suggest the need to be more ambitious in our provision of electrical power to leapfrog the ‘appliances’ chasm.

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