The goal of this periodic blog (EfD) is to promote information exchange on access to quality energy services in developing countries including renewable, modern, biomass and household energy.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Improved Biomass Stoves: The Next Generation

There is a new sheriff in town. Today around the world there is an entirely new and innovative variety of improved stoves that are being manufactured in factories or workshops and sometimes backed by large international companies. These new types of stoves generally are made of quite durable materials that will last for 5 to 10 years or even longer and some come with guarantees. The goal of the marketing of these new stoves is to improve energy efficiency of cooking, to lower indoor air pollution, and to reduce labor or cash expenses required for cooking for the poorest half of the world’s population. The idea is to supply the nearly 3 billion people around the world that still use biomass energy with a stove that that is more modern and efficient than the traditional ones that they now use. Will these new stoves bring order to the wild west of improved stoves programs characterized by hundreds of models made out of vastly different local materials and produced by local artisans?
Traditional Stove in India: Photo by S. Desai

Stoves have existed since the beginning of human history. They have come in various sizes and styles, having been adapted to myriad cultures and food preparation methods. As society has progressed, more sophisticated stove models have been developed. Today’s modern kitchen reflects the many types of standardized and specialized cooking devices available from coffee and tea pots to toasters and gas cooktops. In contrast, the poor in developing countries still burn biomass energy in what amounts to open fires. The smoke produced by these primitiave stoves has been associated with a number of diseases, the most serious of which is acute respiratory illness such as bronchitis and pnemonia.


Envirofit Stove Model G-3300 in India: Photo by Envirofit
The development of improved biomss stoves has witnessed several overlapping stages over the last 30 years and today there are actually three types of programs around the world. One type of improved stove is locally made by small businesses or the even those in household members after they trained. Such stoves are very inexpensive at less than 10 dollars each and sometimes even less than 5 dollars. These artisan-made stoves provide relatively good performance when new, but performance degrades over the short one or two year live of the stove. The second type of stove involves manufactured parts, which are assembled on site with local materials. These stoves are still inexpensive but are a bit more expensive and more durable than the artisan stoves. There will be a later blog on these two types of stoves.

Stovetec Stove: Photo by Aprovecho
The competition is heating up for the “next generation” of stoves that are manufactured in their entirely in factories and workshops world. They include efficient biomass stoves, alcohol stoves, stoves that use pellets, and others. Some of the world’s largest companies have become involved including Shell Foundation, Bosch Siemens, Phillips, British Petroleum and others. There are two interesting examples for wood stoves including the Envirofit stoves and the Stovetec produced by Aprovecho. Others innovations include the Worldstove, First Energy’s Oorja Stove, Gaia’s Dometic (Gaia project), Bosh-Siemens Protos stove, the Onil stove in Guatemala, and the Justa stove in Honduras. A very interesting new initiative by the Government of India endorses the concept of manufactured stoves and implementation is in the planning stages.

The international donors have been slow to embace or support these new generaton of stoves and admittedly this is still an incomplete picture. However, it may just take some time for the realization to set in that such programs can probably be as important as increasing electricity access in terms of improved health and quality of life such as less fuel collection, shorter cooking time, reduced releases of carbon, and less pressure on local forests.

Its nice that there is more international competition in developing new products. However, the question is should there be more interational attention to this problem?

More resources below.



I can’t resist putting in the attached video highlighting the Justa stove in Honduras featuring the Honduran Association for Development (ADHESA) and Trees Water and People who received an Ashden Award for this program.



There are some classic materials on this and I would highly recommend the website of Kirk Smith available in the favorits links page. Also, there was an older study from years ago with the title What Makes People Cook with Improved Biomass Stoves: A Review of Programs . There are two intersting articles on the successful improved stove program in China.  The most recent has the title  An Assessment of Programs to Promote Improved Household Stoves in China published in 2004.  An older one is called One hundred Million Improved Stoves in China: How was it Done.

Links to some of the new stove products are listed below.
The World Stove from you guessed it Worldstove.
The Stovetec from Aprovecho.
Envirofit's Stoves. designed in Colorado State University. 
Siemens Protos Stove
Appropriate Rural Technology Institute or simply ARTI supports a wide variety of useful stoves
Onil Stove from Helps International.
First Energy promotes the Oorja Stove in India.   This is a pellet stove first developed by BP and now is being promoted in India mostly as an alternative to purchase fuels including LPG, kerosene and even wood. 

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