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'Unlocking Clean Cooking Pathways: A Practitioner's Keys to Progress', a new report by ESMAP

15th March 2023

By Dr. Simon Batchelor (Gamos Ltd., Loughborough University).

Our partner ESMAP has launched their new report ‘Unlocking Clean Cooking Pathways: A Practitioner’s Keys to Progress‘. In this blog I highlight some of the key messages that are in the report and came out during the launch which confirm our own research direction and should lead to greater action on clean cooking.  

We are pleased that one of the central messages is about how clean cooking has been ‘orphaned’ and that it needs to be integrated into large scale energy plans. The following images from their infographic, really communicate that learning.  

Image credit – ESMAP infographic 2023.

As Yabei Zhang said at the launch, they have three keys – they seek increased political commitment, large scale public investment and shared knowledge and innovation. That high level political commitment focuses on how the energy sector can ‘elevate’ clean cooking, but to me this is captured in the second key, investment and integration. Large scale investment is happening in electricity access, and we need cooking loads to be considered in that improved access, and indeed in the upgrading and decarbonisation of the wider modern energy sector. Below they note that clean cooking for all must be integrated in national policies and planning for energy, climate and socioeconomic development.  This point was strongly emphasised by Jem Porcaro of SEforALL

Image credit – ESMAP infographic 2023.

As discussed and captured in the MECS report on Results-Based Financing, the World Bank has here acknowledged that Results-Based Financing (RBF) proves to be an “effective model that can unify successful interventions toward performance-based targets and results that reward market transactions and adoption.”

They also talk about harnessing the carbon markets, which dovetails with our own research on carbon creditsFrank van der Vleuten pointed to the recent paper by Wiehl et al. which documented some of the overclaiming made on Improved Cookstoves, although also highlighted the accuracy of the metered methodology that we have been working with Gold Standard on.

They highlighted the need for market development.  They have started each of their clean cooking interventions with market assessments and only then designing a bespoke strategy.  They presented data on their $590 million lending portfolio on clean cooking and heating, although it is important to note they have also engaged with district heating systems. We know from working with them in Rwanda for example, there are sequences regarding pre-qualifying stoves so they can access the RBF scheme. That includes understanding the existing market, but also encouraging new players into the market – many of our partners are in process of accessing this. New players give consumers choice.

I noted that they continue to talk ‘clean cooking’ as defined in the global targets which includes action including Tier 3 improved cookstoves. In 2020 we worked with ESMAP on The State of Access to Modern Energy Cooking Services where modern energy cooking was defined by ESMAP as Tier 4 and 5 stoves, while we as a research programme define it as Tier 5 only. However, even with their inclusion of Tier 4 in definition of ‘mecs’, their report noted that 4 billion people do not have access to modern energy cooking. The 4 billion was not mentioned during this launch, with everyone lamenting the 2.4 billion who don’t have ‘clean cooking’.

The launch avoided the debates about fuels, and focused on the urgency of getting clean cooking onto the political agenda. Paul Mbuthi from the Ministry of Energy Kenya,  talked about Kenya’s aspiration to reach clean cooking by 2028, with a substantial element being eCooking (see previous talk by Paul on Kenya’s aspirations). Paul addressed the issue of choice, he talked about how we need to change the perceptions, the importance of clean cooking. He noted that people could afford mobile phones but claimed they couldn’t afford clean cooking. (He also looped back to the need for integrated planning and pointed to the Kenya governments imminent launch of an integrated energy plan including engagement with County level planning). 

In all, the report was seen by many as very helpful and insightful, and should make a strong contribution to the drive to achieve mainstreaming, greater political commitment, integration into broader energy sector planning (as championed by SEforALL), and accessing larger scale investments.