The Acumen Fund blog this week posted a call for solutions to the energy challenges posed by wood-burning stoves responsible for much of the black carbon causing 18 percent of global warming, according to the New York Times. Much of the third world uses wood as fuel because it is widely available and free, but the stoves they use to burn the wood are inefficient and produce large amounts of smoke and soot, causing major health and pollution problems.
Acumen Fund’s main criticisms of alternative stoves like rocket stoves and solar cookers are as follows:
There are lots of stove technologies…out there that can do the job better and use cleaner fuels, but the capital costs are higher and the distribution models are complex. Incentives from the carbon markets…have not provided enough benefit to drive the adoption of clean cooking products…getting certified through the Kyoto Protocol is a long and complicated process, a real barrier for start-ups interested in attacking the stove problem.
- They certainly are not the cheapest solution, placing the stove at $20 on a stove comparison chart that cites their main competition – stoves made of three stones or mud/dung over burning wood – as $1, and the only two more expensive – solar cookers and the Saves 80 Stove – as $20-57. They claim that the cost is offset by a savings of $240/year due to a 75 percent reduction in wood consumption with this stove.
- The stove design is indeed well-thought out, citing a wind collar to protect against Darfur’s windy environment, a variety of cooking surfaces for various types of Darfuri cuisine, and a small firebox opening to discourage over-feeding the fire with excess wood.
- But they may have the edge when it comes to distribution model. By manufacturing the parts in India then flat-packing them for shipping to Sudan for assembly (a la Ikea), the Darfur Stoves project has been able to increase production seven-fold, to 100 stoves per day.