Spotlight on Electric Cooking
In addition to cutting emissions and deforestation, universal access to electric cooking will have a profound social and economic impact, especially for the women and children that bear the disproportionate burden of fuel collection and food preparation.1 CLASP quantified the adaptation, resilience and other human development benefits from enabling universal access to electric cooking.
An estimated 2.4 billion people do not have access to clean cooking fuels. Instead, they depend on open fires or inefficient stoves to cook their daily meals.2 Inefficient cookstoves powered by solid fuels have large environmental and socioeconomic footprints. In total, a lack of access to clean cooking fuels causes $2.4 trillion USD in damage to the climate and local economies and 3.2 million premature deaths each year.3
From a mitigation perspective, the largest gains from clean cooking access will come in the form of reduced emissions of short-lived climate pollutants, like black carbon, and from reduced stress on forest ecosystems for fuelwood. Globally, unsustainable harvesting of fuelwood and incomplete burning of biomass contributes to roughly 2% of global GHG emissions and up to 25% of the annual anthropogenic black carbon emissions.4 The Clean Cooking Alliance estimates the mitigation potential of access to clean cooking from reduced fuelwood harvest to be over 350 Mt of CO2 annually for 84 countries (Figure below).5 The mitigation potential for a global transition to clean cooking may be higher if a transition to zero-emission e-cooking solutions is prioritized over LPG and improved biomass stoves and if efforts to decarbonize the electric grid are successful.
Figure 1: Global mitigation potential from reduced fuelwood harvest6
From a climate resilience and sustainable development perspective, universal access to electric cooking will have a profound social and economic impact, especially for the women and children that bear the disproportionate burden of fuel collection and food preparation.7 Women and children account for over 60% of all premature deaths from household air pollution and indoor fires expose women and children to harmful indoor air pollution.8 A transition to electric cooking fuels would eliminate these emissions. Additionally, closing cooking gaps with e-cooking would deliver large time savings to women and girls. Women and girls can spend up to ten hours per week on fuel collection and four hours each day cooking over traditional stoves—effectively keeping them from higher-value, income-generating activities and perpetuating gender inequality and economic poverty while trapping them in a life of drudgery.9
Clean cooking is at the nexus of many international climate, sustainable development, public health and biodiversity goals. Governments, donors, and investors should create additional opportunities to scale the market for e-cooking. Studies have shown that electric cooking solutions exist and may have the potential to be cost-competitive with wood-based cooking.10,11,12 A working paper from Modern Energy Cooking Services aggregated energy data and fuel prices from African and developing Asian countries and found that the cost of cooking typical meals with an electric pressure cooker (EPC) was one third the cost of using LPG, and less than 20% of the cost of cooking with charcoal.13
Despite this potential, market barriers including asymmetric information, market failures, environmental externalities, and liquidity constraints remain.14 To overcome these barriers, governments and development institutions should account for environmental externalities when deciding which modern cooking solutions to support, work to lower information and knowledge barriers and ensure that clean cooking solutions are both accessible and affordable to those who need them through subsidies and access to consumer finance. Failure to address affordability constraints in tandem with technical and other market barriers will isolate many of the people who need clean cooking access the most.
0. M. Njenga, J. K. Gitau, and R. Mendum, “Women’s Work Is Never Done: Lifting the Gendered Burden of Firewood Collection and Household Energy Use in Kenya,” Energy Research & Social Science 77 (July 1, 2021): 102071, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2021.102071.
1. IEA et al., “Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report 2022,” 2022, https://trackingsdg7.esmap.org/data/files/download-documents/sdg7-report2022-full_report.pdf.
2. Clean Cooking Alliance, “Accelerating Clean Cooking as a Nature-Based Climate Solution” (Clean Cooking Alliance, 2022), https://cleancooking.org/reports-and-tools/accelerating-clean-cooking-as-a-nature-based-climate-solution/#:~:text=Accelerating%20Clean%20Cooking%20as%20a%20Nature%2Dbased%20Climate%20Solution%20examines,to%20advancing%20nature%2Dbased%20solutions.
3. Robert Bailis et al., “The Carbon Footprint of Traditional Woodfuels,” Nature Climate Change 5, no. 3 (March 2015): 266–72, https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2491.
4. Clean Cooking Alliance, “Accelerating Clean Cooking as a Nature-Based Climate Solution.”
5. Clean Cooking Alliance.
6. Njenga, J. K. Gitau, and R. Mendum, “Women’s Work Is Never Done: Lifting the Gendered Burden of Firewood Collection and Household Energy Use in Kenya,” Energy Research & Social Science 77 (July 1, 2021): 102071, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2021.102071.
7. World Health Organization, Burning Opportunity: Clean Household Energy for Health, Sustainable Development, and Wellbeing of Women and Children (World Health Organization, 2016), https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/204717.
8. Clean Cooking Alliance, “Accelerating Clean Cooking as a Nature-Based Climate Solution.”
9. T.Watkins et al., “Insulated Solar Electric Cooking – Tomorrow’s Healthy Affordable Stoves?,” Development Engineering 2 (January 1, 2017): 47–52, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.deveng.2017.01.001.
10. Robert Van Buskirk et al., “How to Make Off-Grid Solar Electric Cooking Cheaper Than Wood-Based Cooking,” Energies 14, no. 14 (January 2021): 4293, https://doi.org/10.3390/en14144293.
11. Nigel Scott and Prof. Matt Leach, “Comparing Energy Consumption and Costs – from Cooking across the MECS Programme,” Working Paper (Modern Energy Cooking Services, 2023), https://mecs.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/Comparing-energy-consumption-and-costs-from-cooking-across-the-MECS-programme.pdf.
12. Scott and Leach.
13. Van Buskirk et al., “How to Make Off-Grid Solar Electric Cooking Cheaper Than Wood-Based Cooking.”