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MECS – ECO Challenge Fund

The Call

The Electric Cooking Outreach (ECO) challenge fund focuses on the distribution, wider use, and monitoring of efficient electric cooking appliances along with the broader market opportunities for electric cooking. There are two themes under this call:

  • Theme 1 – Community-scale pilot studies. Focus on monitoring whether efficient electric cooking appliances fit the cooking cultures and electricity supply in different communities.
  • Theme 2 – Markets assessments. Focus on the market opportunities for efficient electric cooking appliances in FCDO priority countries.

Together, the two themes can provide a vital evidence base to inform policymakers and other key actors of the opportunities to scale up electric cooking.

Awardees and Locations

MECS awarded funding to 14 projects in 9 countries under the ECO call.

  • Theme 1 awardees: BURN Manufacturing, GERES, iDE, IRADe, Kisambara, Neseltec Ltd, PEEDA, Pereybere Energy Ltd, Power Corner, Practical Action Consulting, SESCOM, University of Southampton & Winrock.
  • Theme 2 awardee: Practical Action.

Covid has had a considerable impact on the delivery of many of these projects and original completion dates have been amended. The majority will complete by March 2022, with the final project report due by August 2022. Final reports and associated papers can be found on the MECS publications page and under the relevant awardee profile below.

MECS-ECO project locations

MECS-ECO project locations – Nepal

ECO Theme 1: Community Scale Pilot Studies

BURN’s goal is to provide affordable and clean cooking solutions to millions of households across sub-Saharan Africa while creating sustainable jobs.

As part of its ongoing R&D, and with funding from Efficiency for Access, BURN has begun studying electric pressure cooker (EPC) technology and its potential use in sub-Saharan Africa, with an initial focus on Kenya. In this project, BURN’s Strategy and Market Research team, together with BURN’s partner, EnerGrow, will conduct test sales in Kenya and Uganda to collect data related to the unique cooking needs of each market. This will support the commercialization of a customized EPC designed specifically for the sub-Sahara African market.

This research action project pilots a market-based last-mile distribution approach to accelerate the uptake of efficient cooking appliances in recently grid-connected villages in rural Myanmar.

A community based and women-led network of entrepreneurs has been established in Thazi township and has currently sold more than 1,000 sustainable energy solutions, such as improved cookstoves and certified solar products in non-grid-connected villages. Around 85% of all Myanmar households still use biomass for their daily cooking needs, even in grid connected areas. Remote villages in Thazi township have benefited from a quick main grid expansion, providing an opportunity for these entrepreneurs to diversify their product mix and target new villages. Household appliances are commonly sold in rural towns but not in the villages. These products do not comply with international quality and energy efficiency standards – most do not present any kind of energy efficiency labelling – and households’ awareness regarding energy efficiency is low. Most products available are imported from neighbouring countries, and despite some having energy efficiency labelling, all are in foreign languages that neither the consumers nor the distributors understand. 

The project will test the energy efficiency of the cooking appliances (electric pressure cookers, frying pans, rice cookers and kettles) available in the Myanmar market, select the most energy-efficient and safer ones, and pilot different marketing and distribution approaches to accelerate the access to efficient electric cooking appliances in rural communities. The project has a targeted outreach of 500 electric cooking appliances.

With the help of the MECS-ECO grant iDE and Hydrologic – an iDE social enterprise – have set up sales and distribution operations to promote the adoption of a range of electric cooking solutions including magnetic induction cookstoves, electric pressure cookers, grills, slow cookers and energy meters.

The scope of our activities includes demand creation, behaviour change communication through digital marketing and rigorous monitoring and data collection on which of the Ps (People, Products, Pricing, Place, Promotion) are creating traction in the market.

A team of branded sales agents is conducting direct, personalized sales and marketing to customers via individual and group meetings. Sales activity is structured in terms of 5 adaptive market test cycles over 6 months. Analysis at the end of each test cycle is helping optimize our sales approach to reach the right customers, deploy the most effective communication strategies and maximize sales.

Data captured throughout the project is aimed at addressing the question of whether the use of specific electric cooking solutions fits with the cooking cultures and market in Cambodia.

Fuelwood continues to be the primary cooking fuel in Nepal followed by imported liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Nearly, 73.5% of households depend on fuelwood for cooking and only 26.3% of households use LPG. Nepal has 42 GW, technically and economically viable, hydro generation potential. Affordable and uninterrupted access to grid electricity, for a significant part of the day, is available to 71.7% of households making it an ideal country to explore the viability of electric cooking adoption. A study in 2019 reported that both men and women in Nepal highlighted the positive impacts of the electric rice cooker. This community-scale pilot study will examine the socio-economic and cultural acceptability along with financial viability of European Standard Electric Pressure Cooker (EPC) adoption in Nepal. The study aims to accelerate the uptake of EPCs in Nepal.

Nairobi is a metropolitan city with a population of diverse social-economic status ranging from high, middle to low-income earners. The project will focus on identifying and piloting a range of consumer financing mechanisms that will help unlock at scale the adoption of EPCs by different socio-economic groups (specifically low-income earners) based on the evidence that the initial cost of investment for an EPC is very high for some. The research will also seek to capture any other barriers to adoption and the impact EPCs will have on their long-term cooking habits.
The project will target residents of Nairobi who are on-grid with a reliable electricity supply. We will aim to incorporate as much diversity as possible within the groups, e.g., households with single parents (both male and female), housewives with husbands who are the sole breadwinner, bachelors and bachelorettes, married couples who are both working.
The project will explore how much of the daily menu participants will use the EPC for once they learn of its versatility, because most Kenyans currently believe that pressure cookers primarily boil foods. We will also explore how the ongoing perception that electricity is expensive will factor in as an associated cost (barrier) of acquiring an EPC. It will also explore the change of the cultural role of men when cooking is carried out with an EPC.

This pilot study will be carried out with three communities in Rwanda: customers of our existing Solar mini-grid that powers Rushonga community; rural grid connected inhabitants of Kigufi center community, and the peri-urban inhabitants of Kigali. The study will determine the willingness of beneficiaries to switch from non-clean cooking energy to efficient electric cooking. We will focus on accelerating electric pressure cooker uptake in the three communities. The study will target 500 households with the results helping investors and donors to make informed decision in financing eCook in Rwanda.

The transition to electric cooking in Nepal is beginning, but over 70% of households still cook with biomass. There is a desire, supported by the Government of Nepal, to use clean cooking fuels, and previous induction stove interventions have been successful. However, electric cooking is still perceived to be expensive and problematic. Nepali cuisine is a mixture of boiling (rice, lentils) and light frying (vegetables, meat). EPCs are likely to be suitable for rice/lentil cooking and pressure cookers are already often used on fuelwood and LPG stoves. A multi-disciplinary consortium made up of local organisations, PEEDA and KAPEG, and the University of Bristol proposes this project to assess the suitability and enable widespread adoption of efficient electric cooking devices, EPCs, for Nepali cooking. The study will aim to understand public acceptance in on- and off-grid situations of cooking with EPCs, understand the knowledge required to enable EPC cooking, and find out whether food cooked in EPCs is found to be tasty.

This project aims to pilot electric pressure cookers to support and introduce new economic activities in Kenya and to increase energy consumption by rural Kenya communities. The project will target homes connected through the Last Mile Connectivity Project (LMCP), a program by the Kenyan government which expanded the grid and connected Kenyans in rural areas. The project will seek to understand cooking norms, develop cooking menus and build cooking use-profiles. This will be done through the use of digital energy meters to complement self-reporting by participating households. The project will also seek to collect data regarding the optimal pressure cooker settings that can cover as many Kenyan menus as possible and a user interface that is friendly. The analysis of the collected data will contextualize the use and impact of electric pressure cookers use by homes in rural Kenya. The research will seek to positively impact the mindset of the target households regarding the use of electric pressure cookers and electric cooking in general.

In many households across Zambia, cooking is a social aspect carried out as a daily routine for the sole objective of feeding, nutrition and training. This is a common responsibility for women, which in many cases entails long hours of walking to fetch firewood, costly purchases for charcoal and a substantial amount of time for the actual preparation of food. Traditional cooking denies women of 4-6 hours daily on average, and costs around $2.50 of charcoal monthly. This time and money could be better invested in productive activities or assets. Use of modern electric cooking is a seemingly new concept, often perceived to be very costly and dangerous due to a lack of information and know-how by potential users. However, electric cooking is an effective and environmentally friendly solution to the issue of cooking time and cost of energy resources. Hence resulting in time and money savings, it positively impacts the livelihoods of women.
Yet, to increase uptake, electric cooking dissemination should be coupled with structured trainings and flexible payment mechanisms, such as lease-to-own. This project aims to enhance the uptake of electric cooking by rural women through the procurement of quality standard cookers in mini-grid settings. To maximize the outreach, a lease-to-own scheme will be made available and coupled with structured training to increase technical know-how by would-be users.

The project aims to demonstrate viability and acceptance of e-cooking especially e-pressure cookers (EPC) and induction cook-tops (IC) in communities electrified through community rural electrification entity of Nepal. The project will undertake baseline studies of household use of the electric cooking equipment. This action research is expected to improve understanding about factors influencing the adoption and acceptance of electric cooking by peri-urban and rural communities of Nepal. Towards the end of the project, we will disseminate the learning from this study at local, provincial, national and international levels through publications, presentations and video documentaries. The study findings are expected to inform and contribute to the on-going effort of the Nepal government to promote electric cooking in Nepal.

This project aims to test business models for distribution of Electric Pressure cookers (EPCs) in grid connected communities in urban areas of Morogoro Region, Tanzania. The project will pilot the use of a new monitoring device, TrekAMP, to monitor the use of EPCs in the study community, with the longer-term goal of informing the development of Result Based and Carbon Finance Mechanisms. The project will monitor and document the end users’ impressions, acceptability and responses to the EPCs. Support services including awareness raising, demonstration and training on use, and after sale services will be offered to the community. Outcomes of the pilot study will form the basis for scaling up EPCs in Tanzania.

In 2017, Dhaka was ranked as the fourth least liveable city in the world by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Ranking. Rapid population growth in Dhaka additionally has translated into housing shortages, driving poorer residents into slums. These densely populated slums suffer significantly from air pollution and adverse health effects due to biomass burning for cooking. Furthermore, this also results in immense heat which makes living conditions, in an already hot climate, even more unbearable. There is a grid line connection into the slums that is tapped illegally by maastans. The aim is to offer energy independence, whilst tackling air pollution, by delivering E-cooking solutions powered by solar PV systems as an alternative to biomass cook stoves. The end state for the community would be to make use of a centralized local energy system that is shared in order to distribute costs and increase resilience. This project will deliver a functioning pilot network to gain knowledge about how these systems work. This proposal will research on the willingness to pay for access to the E-cooking network as well as to understand the complex social and cultural issues which may act as a barrier to uptake.
In addition to the current topic, the University of Southampton have received external funds to enable them to develop this research and understand the potential of MECS to reduce the risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 in the densely populated Dhaka Slums.

Presently, there is an enabling environment for using electric cookstoves for cooking in Nepal. The Government of Nepal’s policies and plans are in favour of electrical cooking. The electricity supply from the national grid line is becoming reliable so that households can increasingly depend on electric cooking. However, market growth of electric cookstoves has been slower than anticipated.
This project will research consumers’ preferences for Electric Pressure Cookers (EPCs), willingness to pay, preferred business models, economic benefits of EPCs, and impacts of EPCs on existing electricity infrastructure and required improvements. The project will also expand stakeholders’ knowledge on EPCs and carry out policy advocacy for scale-up. The project will be piloted in Katahariya Municipality in Province 2, Nepal.

ECO Theme 2: Market Assessment

Electricity access has reached 87% of Nepal’s population. The Government of Nepal has committed to ‘electric stove for all households’ stimulated through the White Paper, following which a national level campaign was launched on January 25, 2019 to eliminate household air pollution through the promotion of energy efficient electric cooking. However, there is no strong evidence on the current market dynamics of electric cooking. This study aims to understand the stakeholders’ power dynamics that would change in a scenario of electricity sector development and to guide the extent to which the electric cooking sector will grow by itself in Nepal. The assessment will support in identifying proper leverages for strategy development and intervention planning by government, the private sector and NGOs.


Due to the spending review and amends to UKAid, some of the above projects were unable to be completed.

ECO Cooking Diaries Webinars

To assist the ECO projects, four webinars were held to highlight the ‘Cooking Diaries’ data collection method. These can be found here.

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