In trying to explain to my brother why Solar Electric Cooking might have reached a tipping point, I found a new way to reframe the problem. My brother has no background in energy, and came at it as a generally educated UK citizen. When I explained that the current emphasis was on lighting, he began to ask more detail about the energy content and how much energy the battery will need to store. In struggling to explain without using detailed numbers, I realised something I hadn’t realised before. There is a considerable ratio advantage!
My thanks to ISSER of the University of Ghana for sharing some data with me. This data is part of surveys conducted by the SAMSET project. Primarily the data was gathered to inform municipal authorities on creating a strategy to transition to cleaner energy, however it gives insight into cooking.
It gives an indication of the market segment most suited to this proposition. In an urban sample 502 households were with electricity and 134 were not grid connected. 57% of those connected to the grid were aware of renewable energy, but only 1.5% had any form of solar. Of those in an urban situation without electricity, 80% had some form of solar by which they included if they had a single portable rechargeable light. 70% of connected households think the power supply is an ‘interrupted (poor) supply’, and 60% would be willing to pay for a more reliable renewable supply.
Only one person used electricity as the main supply for cooking, while 35% used it for supplemental cooking. Of those with connections, 82% used charcoal and 79% used LPG (90% of LPG users also use Charcoal), some using both. When asked why they did not cook with electricity 40% felt that cooking with electricity was too costly however 33% aspire to using electricity within 2 years for their cooking.
Just over 50% of the sample use both LPG and Charcoal. These 315 households spend on average 20GHC on Charcoal and 36GHC on LPG (ie $12.7 a month on this fuel). Those who use only charcoal are mainly in the lower poverty quartile of the sample and yet still pay on average $10 for their charcoal, and those using LPG only (who are in the wealthier quartiles) the average is $12 per month. 68% of those connected were aware of efficient (charcoal) cookstoves, but only 20% use them.
In brief, the data confirms that a system providing the cooking needs of the household and costing $10 a month to run would potentially find a market in Africa of more than 50% of urban dwellers.
As part of the emerging proposition and the alliances we are building, we have proposed that there should be an easy uptake by 4,000,000 households (if the price is right). 4,000,000 is fairly conservative and certainly our aspiration is to change significantly more than that, but as a first target, to be reached by 2020, it sounded a reasonable number. If people consistently used their electrical stove the savings would be of the order of 11Mt CO2 per year and some 10,000 deaths avoided from kitchen emissions.
However to get to this will take some considerable financial investment. We have said that the new business models of pay as you go are likely to work, and indeed it is the monthly substitution of existing expenditure on biomass (charcoal in particular) that means it could work. We are not expecting people to suddenly find $360 and pay for the installation. Rather, private sector would install on a pay as you go basis.
At least that’s the idea at this stage of the game. However at the weekend I realised….even 4,000,000 (modest) times $360 (target price) means that someone has to find 1.4 Billion Dollars!
OK, so a phased approach should allow for repayment of early systems to fund more systems, and once the products are out there they should fund their own expansion. But tha first hurdle, hitting a critical mass,, is not going to be easy. I think I might have to make alliances with a whizzy investment brokers to “identify consumer facing finance and encourage financial institutions to allocate capital”!