- 6th June 2023
By Dr Nick Rousseau (Loughborough University), with input from Dr Anna Clements (Gamos Ltd.), Dr Will Clements (Gamos Ltd.), Dr Jon Leary (Gamos East Africa), Dr Richard Sieff (Gamos Ltd.), Dr Simon Batchelor (Gamos Ltd.; Loughborough University).
People often say to me that Low to Middle income countries aren’t yet ready for electric cooking (eCooking). The prices are still too high. The benefits to the consumer are not clear. And electricity access is too erratic and unreliable. Maybe in a few years electric cooking would have potential….
So I wanted to bring together observations that we’re seeing in a number of countries that suggest that the change will be sooner than many think. There is a growing number of major organisations that are putting significant weight behind a belief that eCooking is the way forward even in the short term, if we can mobilise the actors well enough. Utilities are really seeing the potential value to their interests of a growth in eCooking!
So here are a few observations from the MECS work in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Nepal.
Kenya is where our journey on eCooking really started with the initial cooking trials that were carried out by Jon Leary and colleagues demonstrating the viability of electric cooking, the savings that households could make and the good fit of electric pressure cookers, with Kenyan cooking. These were set out in the Kenyan eCookbook which has become a key tool in all the countries we work with.
eCooking is becoming increasingly viable in Kenya as more than 75% of households and many institutions are getting connected to electricity, either on the national grid or off grid. This has been explored recently in the new Kenya technical policy report and report on the eCooking potential in Kenya.
Building on these Kenya has established a community of practice to enable the growing number of players to work together to promote eCooking, building on the successful Kenya Clean Cooking week in 2021. The Clean Cooking Association of Kenya (CCAK) is partnering with MECS Kenya, African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS) and Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) to advance the eCooking agenda. This is a perfect combination because MECS/ACTS have generated a substantial body of research on clean cooking and explored the potential to transition. CCAK has access to champions at grassroot level, promoting clean cooking, and KPLC is the nation’s utility with over 9 million customers. These organisations coming together will create a powerful force to drive the take up and the availability of eCooking in Kenya.
Further, the MECS Programme is supporting the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum to conduct an eCooking baseline study and develop a National eCooking Strategy that will leverage the strides made in electricity access.
The Capacity Building and Market Development Programme (eCAP), jointly implemented in partnership by Kenya Power and MECS is currently underway. The aim of this programme is to accelerate the electrification of cooking in Kenya by strengthening Kenya’s emerging eCooking sector through 12 projects designed to fill critical evidence gaps that can inform both the National eCooking Strategy & Kenya Power’s corporate strategy.
In Uganda, we’ve known for some time there’s a surplus of energy generation compared with peak demand. The latest figures from the electricity regulatory authority estimate that as of December 2021, installed electricity capacity in Uganda was 1.3 GW with demand only 0.8 GW leaving a surplus of over 500 MW. This results in an urgent need for greater use and take up of electricity.
Umeme, the largest electrical utility in Uganda, and key partners including MECS, are conducting an EPC pilot project which will involve the purchase and distribution of 1,500 electric pressure cookers to households in Uganda. The aim is for the utility to equip itself to be able to successfully distribute eCooking devices, utilising its unique resources and reach, and in doing so to raise awareness of eCooking and therefore create demand which can begin to unlock the sector. This represents the first move towards enabling utility-led financing for eCooking and could deliver greatly increased uptake through the World Bank funded Electricity Access Scale-up Project (EASP). The EASP, which is in the planning stage, will be led by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development and the Uganda Energy Credit Capitalisation Company and will invest 505 million US dollars for grid extension and increasing electricity access over five years. Our understanding is that 92 million USD of that has been allocated for clean cooking (ICS, biogas, briquettes, ethanol, as well as LPG and eCooking), presenting a significant opportunity to provide eCooking appliances to new and existing connections, accelerating the integration of energy planning and eCooking.
This is expected to be a key part of the Government of Uganda eCooking strategy, currently being developed by CIRCODU with support from MECS and the Ministry, along with potentially an import tax waiver for electric cooking devices which will help ensure the funds available translate into the largest possible number of devices.
The supply chains in Uganda are growing in response to the anticipated market explosion – companies like UpEnergy and Energrow are already in place in the country and importing devices. The Ugandan National Alliance on Clean Cooking is developing an awareness raising campaign including demonstrations, exhibitions, and other interventions.
Tanzania is going to be growing its generation capacity from the current level of about 1.6 GW to more than doubling that with the addition of the 2.1 GW Julius Nyerere hydroelectric power plant. And this further drives the need for demand.
The grid availability in Tanzania has grown substantially in the last 10 years with 40% of households connected in 2020 compared with 15% in 2010. Despite that most households still rely on polluting fuels such as firewood and charcoal – roughly 3% of Tanzanians use electricity as their primary cooking fuel.
Tanzania has made clean cooking a government priority. The President, Samia Suluhu Hassan, attended the Clean Cooking Forum for Tanzania in November 2022 where she announced the formation of a national task force that will be devising a 10-year roadmap to steer the country towards clean and sustainable cooking energy. Electric cooking will be very much a part of this roadmap. The task force is led by the Ministry of Energy, and the first stage of stakeholder consultation is underway.
In addition, MECS and TaTEDO are in ongoing discussions with TANESCO about starting up an eCooking programme. There is also activity among Tanzania MPs, and in the week of the 17th April, a 5 day eCooking demonstration in the Parliament compound was held to raise awareness of eCooking. TaTEDO continue their work to strengthen the market system for eCooking – training sales agents, repair and maintenance technicians, and advocating for reduced taxes and a more conducive enabling environment for eCooking.
In Nepal, the electric cooking (eCooking) policy framework has long been considered as highly favourable for scaling transitions to cooking on electricity, reflecting how eCooking is central to the Government of Nepal’s (GoN) macroeconomic objectives of reducing LPG imports and the trade deficit, and its overarching development goal of “Green, Resilient and Inclusive Development (GRID)”. The primary target driving the sector is set by Nepal’s 2020 Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) plan, which calls for 25% of households to be using electricity as their primary cooking fuel by 2030. Currently awaiting the finalisation of GoN approvals, the 2022 Clean Cooking Alliance (CCA) ‘Nepal Country Action Plan for Transforming the Cookstoves and Fuel Market in Nepal’ is intended to serve as the sector’s implementation roadmap to 2030 and be integrated into the national energy agenda.
Ranked 2nd on the MECS Global Market Assessment to identify the countries with greatest opportunities for eCooking scale up in the global south, Nepal has widespread electrification coverage (95% access, of which 23% is off-grid) and a major, planned expansion of domestic hydropower generation (from the current 2,400 MW to 5,000MW by 2024 and 15,000MW by 2030) to support eCooking. The 2022 USAID Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Nepal Compact assigns USD 400m for electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure to help address supply reliability – the country’s main barrier to scaled eCooking uptake. Nepal’s off-grid systems also offer clear potential as most are micro hydro powered which is better suited for eCooking than solar PV as night-time cooking is possible without the need for storage.
Critically, there are elements of an integrated electrification-clean cooking planning approach in Nepal as the government is promoting eCooking to stimulate demand for the surplus electricity capacity expected from the expansion in generation capacity. To support this approach, the GoN reduced import tax on induction stoves from 10% to 1% and lowered electricity tariffs in 2021 specifically to encourage eCooking uptake. Lowering import taxes for all efficient eCooking appliances (e.g. EPCs) and adjusting the tariff structure for lower bands would encourage further eCooking.
The GoN prioritisation of eCooking has led to strong engagement from the third sector, with major multinational and bilateral organisations such as the World Bank, FCDO (inc. MECS), GIZ EnDev, and CCA carrying out major eCooking projects and programmes. The largest of these initiatives is a 49.2m USD project co-financed by the Green Climate Fund which will see the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC), the lead GoN agency for clean cooking) work with 150 Municipal Governments to install 500,000 eCookstoves over the next 5 years. Designing the intervention’s expected subsidies so they facilitate long term eCooking adoption and avoid distorting the nascent eCooking market will be crucial.
Supply chains in Nepal are present in the major urban centres where a range of eCooking appliances imported from neighbouring China and India are available. Electric pressure cookers (EPCs) are also increasingly available, which MECS research shows are well suited to Nepali staples such as rice and daal and can offer households over 50% savings on fuel costs compared with LPG and purchased firewood. MECS pilot studies in Nepal have demonstrated rapid, significant, and sustained eCooking uptake, with people from various cultural and socio-economic groups in both grid and off-grid locations willing to use and pay for eCooking appliances. These opportunities for scaling eCooking transitions in Nepal can be accelerated by improving after sales services outside of urban centres and increasing access to financial resources for low-income households to purchase appliances.
So I hope you will agree that, in these countries alone, the time is right for eCooking device companies to enter and take advantage of these programmes.
Featured image, top: MECS East Africa Launch attendees excited to see delicious traditional Kenyan foods prepared with ease in modern energy-efficient appliances, such as the Electric Pressure Cooker (EPC). (Photo credit: Africa Centre for Technology Studies)