Three billion people rely on traditional stoves and solid fuels. These energy use patterns exacerbate the global climate crisis (via increased carbon emissions) and forest degradation/deforestation (via daily fuelwood collection), and expose billions to toxic air pollution generated by dirty fuels. Widespread adoption of improved cookstoves (which use cleaner fuels or burn solid fuels more efficiently) may ease this “triple burden,” but recent research casts doubt on their potential, given low and slow diffusion. We challenge this pessimism based on a multiyear, three-phase field study comprising diagnosis, design, and experimental testing involving 1,000 rural Indian households. We show that demand for these improved energy technologies is high when supply chains are robust, technologies match local needs, and income and liquidity constraints are relaxed.
Despite widespread global efforts to promote clean cookstoves to achieve improvements in air and forest quality, and to reduce global climate change, surprisingly little is known about the degree to which these actually reduce biomass fuel consumption in real-world settings. Using data from in-house weighing of fuel conducted in rural India, we examine the impact of cleaner cookstoves most of which are LPG stoves on three key outcomes related to solid fuel use. Our results suggest that using a clean cookstove is associated with daily reductions of about 4.5 kg of biomass fuel, 160 fewer minutes cooking on traditional stoves, and 105 fewer minutes collecting biomass fuels.
Despite the potential of improved cookstoves to reduce the adverse environmental and health impacts of solid fuel use, their adoption and use remains low. Social marketing—with its focus on the marketing mix of promotion, product, price, and place—offers a useful way to understand household behaviors and design campaigns to change biomass fuel use. We report on a series of pilots across three Indian states that use different combinations of the marketing mix. We find sales varying from 0% to 60% depending on the promotion strategy used. Behavior change promotion that combined door-to-door personalized demonstrations with information pamphlets was effective. Households clearly identified price as a significant barrier to adoption, while provision of discounts (e.g., rebates given if households used the stove) or payments in installments were related to higher purchase. Collectively, these pilots point to the importance of continued and extensive testing of messages, pricing models, and different stove types before scale-up.