Today, around 3 billion people regularly cook using open fires or simple stoves, mostly in low-and middle-income countries. Unfortunately, these cooking method present numerous potential health risks. Each year 4 million people die prematurely due to household air pollution. Women and children are more likely to be affected by these health risks. One leading cause of household air pollution is attributed to the burning of biomass fuels and coals.
Potential health risks are short- and long-term and cover both respiratory and cardiovascular problems like heart diseases, lung cancer and chronic respiratory problems. In addition, this cooking method also contributes to climate change due to carbon dioxide emissions. Relying on biomass fuels and coals also has negative social implications: children spend less time in school because they need to collect biomass.
This shows that promoting clean cooking solutions has a triple benefit by addressing health, climate change and social issues with the aim to improve the lives of millions of people around the world. Clean cooking means to replace traditional fuels with cleaner fuels such as biogas, liquified petroleum gas, electricity, and natural gas while also increasing energy efficiency. Recently, solar cooking has gained a lot of attention since it also promotes energy independence and even potentially provides families with an additional income.
Many start-up initiatives have emerged in the field of clean cooking over the last years. The SET Award has been presented to eight start-ups in this field in the last four years. Winners and finalists include Powerstove Energy, BioLite, Divine Bamboo, Enjay among others.
We recently had the pleasure to speak with Powerstove Energy-Founder Mr. Okey Esse about current developments, challenges and the future of clean cooking.
Mr. Okey Esse told us that the initial effects of COVID-19 were rather harsh on their business due to a mandatory lockdown which made them change their marketing strategy to direct sales via door-to-door service to ensure that users would not need to pay extra on their products. Their approach turned out to be successful since their cost cutting innovation in cooking came at a time when families shifted their priorities to food and survival.
According to Mr. Esse, regarding the current challenges to clean cooking businesses there are four main problems: a necessary behavioural shift, electricity costs, high upfront costs and (at least in Nigeria) double taxation. Nonetheless, the future of clean cooking seems to be very promising as more families are switching to clean and efficient cooking each day. More than anything, cost reductions are driving the growth of clean cooking and Mr. Esse believes that in less than 5 years 30% of all families in sub-Saharan Africa will adopt clean cooking solutions. To conclude, clean cooking has the potential to improve the lives of millions of people and inspiring entrepreneurs such as Mr. Okey Esse will continue to promote clean cooking solutions.
Here you can learn more about the many innovative start-ups working on solutions addressing the energy transition, climate change and issues beyond.