Although development agencies have invested funds in cookstove projects for decades, they have not yet found the right combination of technology, finance, and behavior change necessary to encourage large-scale fuel switching or sustained uptake of more efficient wood-burning stoves. More than 2.5 billion people around the world prepare their food on open fireplaces fuelled by firewood, plant residues and charcoal and in India alone an estimated 160 million Indian households now cooking with inefficient and polluting biomass and coal cook stoves could yield enormous gains in health and welfare for the weakest and most vulnerable sections of society. At the same time, cleaner household cooking energy through substitution by advanced-combustion biomass stoves (or other options such as clean fuels) can nearly eliminate the several important products of incomplete combustion that come from today’s practices and are important outdoor and greenhouse pollutants. This means emissions of hazardous concentrations of carcinogenic substances leading to various diseases, especially lung disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 1.6 million people die annually as a result of indoor air pollution caused by those fires and these can be reduced drastically. USAID/USG could help foster such improvements in two related ways:
- Research to provide scientific data on the relationship between household energy use, climate change, and/or health impacts (low birth rate, pneumonia, etc), including geospatial data on households, fuel usage, health impacts, etc., which would inform
- Research on improved/alternative fuels (i.e., plant oils, ethanol, etc), improved cookstoves, and/or improved charcoal kilns in a given location to design low cost, highly efficiency next generation cook stoves - utilizing heat transfer and thermodynamics principles - to maximize heat content of non-conventional fuels such as biomass and Jatropha oil -- while minimizing air pollution aspects and black soot.