MECS ECO competition funds 14 projects to the value of £826,000 to facilitate greater uptake and understanding of opportunities for the use of efficient electric cooking appliances

The Modern Energy Cooking Services (MECS) Electric Cooking Outreach (ECO) challenge fund competition is to provide over £826,000 of funding to 14 projects as part of the MECS programme’s aim to rapidly accelerate the transition to clean cooking on a global scale. 

This support for clean cooking is urgent. Currently, over a third of the world’s population cook with biomass fuels, such as charcoal and wood, which have severe health impacts for users. The air pollution they cause leads to around four million premature deaths each year – primarily among women and children.

Demonstrating efficient electric cooking appliances: electric cooking provides a cleaner alternative to biomass fuels.

The MECS ECO challenge fund forms a core component of the £39.8 million MECS programme, funded by UK Aid and jointly managed by Loughborough University and the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme (ESMAP). 

Run as a series of competitions, each with their own focus and objectives, the challenge fund provides early-stage research funding to stimulate innovations in modern energy cooking technology and systems and support the advancement of technology-based cooking energy products, processes and services in low-income countries. The MECS ECO competition centred on two key themes:

  • Theme 1: Community-scale pilots. Focus on whether commercially available efficient electrical cooking appliances fit the cultural cooking processes and electricity supply for a given market.
  • Theme 2: Market assessments. Focus on providing market intelligence on the emerging opportunities for efficient electrical cooking appliances in DfID priority countries.

Together, the two themes provide a critical evidence base for policymakers and other key sector actors which could help increase electric cooking uptake by highlighting current opportunities and de-risking pro-electric cooking policy making.

A total of 32 applications were received. There was a wide geographical reach with funding awarded to 14 applicants across nine countries for projects in a range of urban and rural, grid and off-grid locations in Africa, (Kenya, Rwanda Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia) and Asia (Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal). Successful community pilot applications were awarded up to £60,000 each with projects to run for twelve months. The market assessment grant was for up to £30,000 with project duration six months.

Winners includedPereybere Energy – a Kenya based start-up focused on social economic development through smart energy services. Co-founder, Charles Kagiri commented: “The MECS ECO challenge fund is a great platform for Pereybere Energy to contribute to the global effort to minimize the harm done by cooking with polluting fuels. We are excited to take part and positively change the perception of electric cooking among newly electrified rural homes with the introduction of electric pressure cookers (EPCs). This will help raise the living standard in these communities and increase revenue to the utility, which will improve the sustainability of the grid”. 

Also successful was the international NGO, iDE (International Development Enterprises) with a community pilot based in Cambodia. iDE Design Strategist Amey Bansod stressed the widescale benefits of the challenge fund: “MECS-ECO has global impact, creating momentum supporting the transition to cleaner cooking in target countries. It has de-risked investment for businesses, international organizations and research institutions to demonstrate measurable progress towards adoption of electricity for cooking whilst preserving the cultural processes of cooking”.

The NGO Practical Action also saw similar broad benefits with their ECO funded Market Assessment in Nepal. Upendra Shrestha, Head of Business Development and Programme Quality at Practical Action Nepal noted “The MECS ECO challenge award will provide a basis on which we can develop a viable strategy for electric cooking programmes in Nepal whereby more people will have access to affordable and clean energy”, adding knowledge will be disseminated “to wider stakeholders to support them in their e-cooking thought processes and scale-up”. The complimentary strategic benefits from theme 1 and 2 highlight the synergies between the two ECO themes.

Addressing clean cooking has taken on even greater urgency with the current Covid-19 pandemic – the heightened vulnerability of those with pre-existing lung diseases caused not least by their exposure to harmful fumes from biomass cooking (EURACTIV, 2020, Lippi & Henry, 2019). The core aims of the MECS programme and ECO challenge fund have clear scope to help mitigate these issues by accelerating the transition to clean cooking. Furthermore, and in direct response to the pandemic, the University of Southampton adjusted their ECO funded community pilot study in Bangladesh to also focus on smoke particle levels from cooking, their impact on respiratory health, and whether COVID-19 has changed local community perceptions towards electric cooking.

Several further rounds of the challenge fund will be run, with the next due to be announced by the end of the year. The competitions are open to companies of all sizes, academia and other organisations, to support research projects which could lead to enabling a safe and efficient modern energy cooking system. Details will be released shortly – keep in touch via the MECS website and social media platforms.

List of ECO awardees and project titles

ECO awardee: BURN

Project title:  Understanding market dynamics and preferences for EPCs in Uganda and Kenya

ECO awardee: Geres

Project title: REACH – Rural Energy Access to Community and Households (Myanmar)

ECO awardee: iDE (International Development Enterprises)

Project Title: Future solutions to boost electric cooking uptake in Cambodia

ECO awardee: Integrated Research and Action  for Development (IRADe)

Project title: Testing electric pressure cooker adoption in the socio-economic and cultural context of Nepal.

ECO awardee: Kisambara

Project title: Unlocking EPCs for the urban poor (Kenya)

ECO awardee: Neseltec LTD

Project title: Electric pressure cooker pilot study to accelerate the uptake of efficient electric cooking appliances in Rwanda

ECO awardee: People, Energy and Environment Development Association (PEEDA)

Project title: Understanding the suitability of electric pressure cookers in Nepali households

ECO awardee: Pereybere Energy Limited

Project title: Clean cooking pilot study using energy metering data (Kenya)

ECO awardee: PowerCorner Zambia

Project title: Powering rural electric cooking with mini-grids (Zambia)

ECO awardee: Practical Action 

Project title: Market assessment of efficient electric cooking appliances in Nepal

ECO awardee: Practical Action Consulting

Project title: Analysis of factors affecting adoption of electric cooking options in electrified community of Nepal

ECO awardee: Sustainable Energy Services Company (SESCOM)

Project title: Piloting innovative community business models for accelerating uptake of efficient electric cooking appliances (Tanzania)

ECO awardee: University of Southampton

Project title: E-cooker network for urban slums: benefits and barriers to implementation (Bangladesh)

ECO awardee: Winrock

Project title: Efficient Electric Cooking Market Uptake (EECMU) in Nepal