Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Starting a clean cooking revolution - Impressions from the Indian Clean Cookstove Forum 2013

The India Clean Cookstove Forum 2013, organised by IGEN-RE on 25/26 November, 2013, was the first event on cooking energy of this dimension in India. The presence of high ranking keynote speakers, such as the minister of New and Renewable Energy, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, and the participation of over 150 representatives of NGOs, entrepreneurs, research and finance organizations, as well as government agencies demonstrates the high importance attributed to clean cookstoves – a topic that has been around in India for over 30 years.

Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Minister of New and Renewable Energy,
calling for new action and cooperation in the clean cookstove secto
“The innovation of chulhas that was introduced in the 1980s didn’t work. The mission failed. What we need is a chulha that is effective, cheap and which people will be able to use. What we need are industrialists who produce this. Not because they are in love with our country and its people but to make money”. Referring to the National Programme for Improved Cookstoves, Farooq Abdullah, called attention to the needs of millions of Indian households suffering from indoor air pollution caused by the usage of traditional cookstoves, or so-called chulhas, and the crucial role attributed to the private sector to solve this problem. In order for the sector to live up to these expectations, adequate policy frameworks and market conditions have to be established requiring action and involvement of policy makers, donors, private enterprises, and the financing sector. The need for clean cookstoves is real and the technology to solve these problems is available; however, as Michael Blunck, IGEN-RE project leader, pointed out, the last mile to bridge the gap and reach consumers remains the sector’s largest bottleneck. To overcome this last mile, the forum aimed at bringing key players of the sector together in order to spur new dialogue and create a network for knowledge exchange and cooperation.

C. Liedtke, technical expert of IGEN-RE, summarising key
challenges and potential solutions for the supply of clean
The event was preceded by a Practitioner Workshop where about 30 representatives from stove manufacturers and distributors used the opportunity to actively engage in discussions organised in breakout groups and jointly work out current challenges faced by the sector with regards to demand, supply and the market ecosystem. The pinpointed core issues identified served as valuable input for the panel discussions on the following day.

Representatives of manufacturers, NGOs, finance,
policies, and logistics discussed 
how the demand
for clean cookstoves
could be created, their supply
and the market ecosystem developed

Panellists called for a more holistic and solution-based approach as opposed to a technology-driven one. It was pointed out that “the only thing that can be generalized about India is that nothing can be generalized: there are as many cooking solutions as there are cooking culture” (Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, journalist), and therefore the main focus has to move away from clean biomass cookstoves to tackling the cooking sector as a whole: users, and the food they cook have to stand in the centre of the discussion. Also the engagement of a broader and more interdisciplinary base was called for since the subject touches upon many fields, such as health, energy and gender. The general lack of awareness and demand for improved cookstoves was repeatedly named as a core challenge for reaching economies of scale and the cause for fragmented markets.“Potential end-users have to be able to see: what’s in it for me?” says Sujatha Srinivasan, Director of Servals Automation, highlighting the point of a missing value proposition for users.Mass awareness and marketing campaigns, improved market data on consumer preferences as well as direct support in the form of end-user financing, risk guarantees for banks and MFIs, as well as seed capital, soft loans and a more favourable tax structure for entrepreneurs, rather than grant and subsidy based approaches were called for.

Michael Blunck, project leader of IGEN-RE, presents Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Minister of New
and Renewable Energy, and Mr. Alok Srivastava, Joint Secretary of the Government of India,
with the CDM Programme of Activities that has been successfully registered. The Programme
will reduce the cost of stoves for end users through the sale of carbon credits.
The continuing cooperation between GIZ and MNRE and IGEN-RE will make an effort to integrate these inputs, such as providing risk guarantees to financial institutions, into their activity portfolio. Since 2012, the cookstove initiative under IGEN-RE has followed a holistic approach engaging in activities ranging from creating new financing opportunities through Carbon Finance to designing a marketing toolkit for cookstove entrepreneurs, and undertaking field studies to better understand user preferences and market conditions.
To learn more about the issues discussed at the event and to follow the next steps, please visit www. Energypedia.info.