Are we in danger of just doing what we always have done?

In the recent report THE STATE OF THE GLOBAL CLEAN AND IMPROVED COOKING SECTOR by ESMAP and GACC, they seem to have lost sight of electrcity???

In the forward to the main report Rihot Khanna states:-  “This is a moment of great opportunity for the clean cooking sector. [Agreed]  While experts have been working for decades on improving cookstoves and scaling up access to clean cooking fuels and technologies, only recently has this issue become a major priority on the global development agenda. The world has woken up to the serious health, environmental, and economic impacts of continued dependence on biomass for cooking. At the same time, rapid progress in technology and new financial mechanisms to support this sector have made real change possible.”  The forward notes that “The three overarching SE4ALL goals to be achieved by 2030—universal access to modern energy services, doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, and doubling the rate of improvement of energy efficiency—have now been broadly accepted, including by 82 developing countries that have opted into SE4ALL.”

And yet as the report progresses there is little reference to electricity as a potential modern fuel for substituting for biomass, the great smoke killer.  Radha Muthiah, Chief Executive Officer, Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, appeals in his opening for a vision:- “Consider, for a moment, the simple act of cooking. Imagine if we could change the way nearly five hundred million families cook their food each day. It could slow climate change, drive gender equality, and reduce poverty. The health benefits would be enormous.”   He goes on to note that “Four years ago, when the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (Alliance) was first launched, the issue of household air pollution and the enormous health toll that the smoke from traditional cookstoves and fuels took on the lives of women and their families in the developing world, received far less attention and funding than it deserved. Hundreds of millions of women were literally risking their lives each day to cook food for their families over inefficient cookstoves and polluting open fires, and spending hours gathering fuel often at great personal risk.”  And he rightly points to the progess “With growing global attention and a shift from an aid-driven approach to a market-based one that is built on the premise of sustainability, there are now at least 20 million additional households using cleaner and/or more efficient cookstoves and fuels around the world.

While we agree progress has been made, we see a shortsightedness that does not set the poor up for 2030.  The world seems to be currently overlooking new options for clean modern fuels for cooking and this report exemplifies the emerging challenge.  The momentum of local industries creating clean cookstoves that are more efficient and less polluting than open stone fires, is in danger of focusing donor and market interventions on more of the same.  Without stepping back and considering what the world will look like in 2030, we will not be able to put in place the technology and market systems to move the majority of biomass consumers to clean modern fuels.

Dare I say that the Alliance for Clean cookstoves would do well to consider electricity as a potentially transformative fuel for cooking, and that this includes both grid and off grid renewable systems.

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