M Jeuland, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University. 2011.
The current focus on improved cook stoves focuses on the “triple benefits” they provide, in improved health and time savings for households, in preservation of forests and associated ecosystem services, and in reducing emissions that contribute to global climate change. Despite the purported economic benefits of such technologies, however, progress in achieving large-scale adoption and usage has been remarkably slow. Some evidence suggests that households consider the use of such technologies to be quite costly, due to problems with stove quality, unclear gains in fuel or time efficiency, as well as the changes in cooking methods that are required for successful use. This analysis relies on a simulation model in an attempt to better understand the variability in the costs and benefits entailed by such improved stoves in developing country locations. The results from the modeling suggest that the net benefits of improved cook stoves will not be unambiguously positive, in general. Key characteristics of these technologies that may affect diffusion of improved stoves include the wide variation in realized time and fuel use efficiencies experienced by real users, in health effects, and in the relative costs of alternative stoves, in terms of fuel and capital. Given the current attention being given to scale up of ICS, this analysis is timely and important for highlighting some of the issues that may need to be resolved to achieve the desired outcomes.