A transition away from the use of fuelwood and charcoal for cooking can prevent hundreds of thousands of premature deaths caused by household air pollution. This study explores various policy options and pathways for such a transition in Sub-Saharan Africa, and their implications for costs, child health, biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions.
Universal access to clean cooking requires huge effort
In the absence of coordinated action, policies and increased funding, the number of people in Sub-Saharan Africa who will be relying on traditional biomass cookstoves is projected to amount to 660–820 million by 2030. The heavy dependence on solid biomass for traditional cookstoves is the largest in rural areas, but is also considerable in urban areas.
Positive health, biodiversity and climate impacts
Phasing out traditional cookstoves by 2030 is projected to decrease fuelwood demand by 70%, compared to under the baseline scenario, and lead to reduced pressure on biodiversity, 40% lower greenhouse gas emission levels and a 55% reduction in child mortality attributable to household air pollution. Bringing this child mortality close to zero would require a complete phase-out of the use of biomass.
Clean cooking could reduce fuel costs
Although cleaner cookstoves (e.g. advanced biomass stoves, LPG, biogas and electric stoves) have higher purchasing costs than those on traditional biomass, their level of efficiency is also much higher. As the largest share of annual costs are related to fuel, overall cooking costs could be reduced if traditional cookstoves were to be phased out—especially, if the transition towards clean cooking would be accompanied by a change in cooking behaviour (e.g. the use of more pre-prepared meals, as this would lead to less energy use at household level).
Different pathways can be envisaged
Preferred combinations of cooking fuels and technologies may differ per community, and are based on income, biomass availability and/or proximity to markets. Improved and advanced biomass cookstoves could play an important role in providing cleaner cooking options as an interim solution for the poorest households, mostly in rural areas. In the longer term, biogas could meet a considerable part of the cooking energy demand, because of the abundance of biomass resources, including dung and agricultural residues. LPG, natural gas and electricity are attractive options, as they have the highest health benefits.