The proposition begins to gain traction among the donors. DFID wanted to check my numbers and so commissioned three evidence based reports. However at the time of writing, these reports are not yet on the web.
What is on the web is the synthesis paper. “SOLAR ELECTRIC COOKING IN AFRICA IN 2020. A SYNTHESIS OF THE POSSIBILITIES”. Admittedly this is by myself, but it is based on the three other peer reviewed papers, and my synthesis itself was peer reviewed.
In the first paper (Leach and Oduro 2015) the economics of the proposition are modelled. Using existing evidence on the way households cook in Africa, the model sets up two scenarios (‘low cook’ and ‘high cook’) which represent the range of energy consumption found in most households of 4 people. The model is based on evidence from the literature of the range of current costs for components, and most importantly the range of predicted costs. The model shows that the majority of upfront costs are invested in the battery for the system, and a second paper was specifically commissioned on the technical capabilities of current (and near future) batteries.
The second paper (Slade 2015) confirms that LiFePO4 batteries currently on the market are thought to be viable for the proposition. However, the paper draws attention to the absence of independent data on battery performance in high temperature and high discharge conditions. Slade 2015 notes that electric car manufacturers have had challenges from car owners living in the hotter parts of the USA, and are addressing the loss of performance at higher temperatures. The paper concludes that “the research question posed is ahead of the capability of current common lithium ion battery types to deliver long term, durable performance at high (tropical) temperatures, but arguably not by much in this rapidly advancing field.”
The third paper in the series (Brown and Sumanik-Leary 2015) addressed the socio cultural barriers and drivers to the proposition. Households rarely choose their livelihood strategies based on cost alone. As the ICS literature states “low levels of consumer awareness; behaviour change obstacles to the reduced use of traditional stoves after the adoption of new solutions; and limited consumer access to appropriately designed and durable products.” (ESMAP 2015) all slow the uptake of improved stoves. How then would these factors affect a transformative shift in behaviour to PV-eCook? Brown and Sumanik-Leary explore the uptake of cooking with electricity in South Africa, the transition to LPG in some countries, the uptake of Improved Cookstoves and the uptake of solar home lighting systems to document lessons from each of these.
I will draw out some of the key facts from these into this blog over time, but at this point I just want to say:-
The papers were commissioned to find out if the proposition was crazy. The outcome of the process of focusing on an academically verified set of papers is that I (and others) have an increased confidence that I am not crazy and that by 2020 this could be a reality ( 🙂 in some areas, and by 2030 a reality in many areas – if the funding and political will and all those other factors in a complex system were in place!).
Bottom line – its worth researching further and generating conversation among donors in a build up to 2020 and we will be looking to network and ‘convene’ over the coming year.