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MECS Cooking Support on Mini-Grids (COSMO) challenge fund

Competition overview

The new ‘Cooking Support on Mini-Grids’ (COSMO) competition is the latest in a series of challenge funds that the MECS programme has engaged with.  Previous funds have prompted innovation, early research, and piloting, all of which seek to rapidly accelerate the transition from biomass to clean cooking, particularly modern energy cooking services, on a global scale. The COSMO competition builds on this progression of interest by seeking to strengthen the utilization of mini-grids (MG) for eCooking. This new competition enables the MECS programme, funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) and delivered by Loughborough University, to address key barriers to using electric cooking on mini-grids.

The key aim of the COSMO competition is to seek to explicitly strengthen the utilization of mini-grids (MG) for eCooking.

Run in 2-phases, phase 1 of the competition supported seven projects to develop their business plan on a planned or existing mini-grid. Progression to phase 2 was competitive with funding available for only three projects.

The following projects will progress to phase 2 for a duration of up to 24 months with a further funding envelope of £150,000.

Phase 2 Awardees:

EarthSpark International Corp, Validating eCooking in Planning and Operations of Solar Mini-grids in Haiti, EarthSpark International – EarthSpark: Transformers of potential to opportunity for under-served communities

Building on its 2019-2020 MECS-funded work, EarthSpark International will integrate planning for eCooking into two solar mini-grids in Haiti. EarthSpark’s initial findings were extremely promising for eCooking on its solar mini-grids, and this project will expand the feasibility work to both 1) build a new solar mini-grid and 2) expand an existing solar-diesel mini-grid with additional solar capacity, both incorporating eCooking loads into the generation system design and operations planning.  Specifically, EarthSpark will:

  • Update user expenditure data with new surveys of homes, businesses, and charcoal vendors
  • Conduct preliminary user engagement around optimal tariff and demand-side-management programs specifically for electricity for cooking services.
  • Conduct additional HOMER mini-grid generations system sizing runs + financial model scenarios based on various inputs for eCooking like overall adoption rate and time-of-use constraints.
  • Conduct preliminary research around results-based financing for the gender+carbon+health benefits of the combination of eCooking and EarthSpark’s “Feminist Electrification” approach to mini-grid development and operations.
  • Review available information on best appliances, engage with suppliers, procure, and trial several different models of EPC to enable appliance selection.
  • Expand research on optimal metering methods for EPCs.

EarthSpark is planning to scale-up its mini-grid operations in Haiti to serve more than 23,000 new connections in the next 4 years, and favourable eCooking findings will guide EarthSpark’s planning for those and other future grids. This project will help validate EarthSpark’s strong hypothesis that electric cooking on solar-powered mini-grids can significantly improve the customer experience, reduce climate impacts, and boost the mini-grid business model all at once. 

Powergen Renewable Energy Limited, Utilization of AC Mini-grids for Electric cooking, PowerGen Renewable Energy – Transforming lives through smarter power (

This project aims at generating an understanding which will help PowerGen to design and operate profitable AC mini-grids which incorporate electric cooking. This will, involve collecting information and data which at the will help to answer the question of what sustainable mini-grids which include the e-cooking load, could look like.  ​We are looking to collect data from different sources to validate some key assumptions on electric cooking and mini-grids profitability from different sources. ​At the end of the project, PowerGen will be able to collect data and evidence for developing the detailed business plan, detailed modelling of the mini-grid, and a high-level implementation plan for either building a new grid or modifying an existing one.

University of Southampton, Mini-grid resilience through integration of e-cooking loads: Oloika, Kenya, About us | Energy and Climate Change Group | University of Southampton

eCooking has the potential to enhance the financial viability and sustainability of mini-grids by increasing demand.  For the COSMO competition, we propose to use the ‘Oloika mini-grid’ (13.5kWp PV, 38.4kWh battery storage), located in Kajiado County, Kenya which was installed by the University of Southampton, UK in 2015. This project is run by a co-operative with elected officers and supported by Kenya Power (KPLC). The mini-grid catalysed local socio-economic growth with the electrical demand grown from 10kWh/d to over 28kWh/d. Our recent survey (Nov 2019) in Oloika mini-grid indicated that a significant number of customers are currently using LPG for cooking, and Ugali is the most common staple food followed by rice and beans. Cooking cost varies across different types of fuels used, mainly dominated by LPG. Integration of eCooking, will open up the opportunity for replacing expensive LPG and environmentally damaging firewood collection in the community while increasing income of the mini-grid through utilizing the excess power generated in the daytime. COSMO funding will enable Oloika mini grid to accommodate e-cooking expansion coupled with the installation of KPLC smart customers meters (or smart meters with automated energy management features). This will enable us to test various techno-economic approaches to identify the most suitable model that can be adapted by the planned deployment of 98 KOSAP mini-grids as well as others in the region.

Opportunity: Women in Modern Energy Cooking (WMEC) initiative launched