Nearly half the world’s population still lacks access to modern energy cooking services – new report

Four billion people around the world still lack access to clean, efficient, convenient, safe, reliable, and affordable cooking energy, according to a new report.

While around 1.25 billion are considered in transition with access to improved cooking services, the rest still cook with traditional polluting fuels and technologies with severe impacts on health, gender, economic, environmental and climate outcomes.

Using an expanded methodology to provide a more comprehensive measurement of household energy access and cooking solutions, the State of Access to Modern Energy Cooking Services report finds that the rate of access to modern sources of energy for cooking stands at only 10% in Sub-Saharan Africa, 36% in East Asia and 56% in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The report provides three key recommendations:

  • Creating high-profile coalitions of political leaders to prioritize access to modern energy cooking services in global and national arenas
  • Formalizing cooking energy demand in national energy planning and development strategies, in order to achieve universal access that reflects diverse users’ needs, local market conditions, and national comparative advantages on energy resources
  • Dramatically increasing funding focused on modern energy cooking services that moves from the tens and hundreds of millions to the tens of billions

The report was produced by the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) in collaboration with Loughborough University and the Clean Cooking Alliance.

Loughborough’s Professor Ed Brown, the director of the Modern Energy Cooking Services (MECS) program, which funded the report, said: “One of the key elements of the report is that it presents a new understanding of what is meant by access to clean cooking.

“Previously this was measured on the basis of whether or not households cook primarily with ‘clean fuels’.

“The new definition is more nuanced and not only measures access to fuels, but also other attributes of the cooking system that reflect the user's context and cooking experience – for example, it goes beyond efficiency and emissions to also include measures of convenience, safety, affordability and availability.

“The report shows that four billion people worldwide remain without access to modern energy cooking services.

“It is entirely unacceptable that this remains the situation for so many people in the 21st century.”

Many of the innovations promoted by the MECS programme are highlighted in the report.

One major area of interest is the growing evidence of the potential gains to be made from integrating cooking with electricity.

The report says: “Researchers have modelled the cost of cooking with electricity compared to other baseline fuels, as well as stacking scenarios.

“The results show that.... cooking on national grids and micro hydropower are already cost effective for many people today, while battery supported eCooking and solar-hybrid mini-grids open up in 2025.

“However, clean fuel stacks with LPG can make all of these technologies cost-effective today."

‌Millions of people around the world are still using harmful biofuels to cook

It project also sheds new light on a critical component to achieving target 7.1 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In an effort to gain a better understanding of the barriers to progress, the report uses a new multidimensional approach to measure access to modern energy for cooking across six factors, examining not only whether it is  clean, but also whether it is efficient, convenient, safe, reliable, and affordable.

Funding commitments for residential clean cooking by development partners and the private sector had recently fallen from US$120m (£94m) to US$32m (£25m).

The State of Access to Modern Energy Cooking Services report estimates that $150bn (£118bn) is needed annually to reach universal access to modern energy cooking services by 2030.

Of this amount, approximately $39bn (£31bn) is required in public funding  to ensure that modern cooking solutions are affordable for  the poorest while $11bn (£9bn) is needed from the private sector to install downstream infrastructure for the functioning of modern energy cooking markets, such as the distribution network.

The remaining $103bn (£81bn) would come from household purchases of stoves and fuels.

A less ambitious scenario of reaching universal access to improved cooking services by 2030 requires $10 billion per year, including $6bn (£4.7bn) from the public sector to fill the affordability gap and the rest by households.

World Bank Vice President for Infrastructure Makhtar Diop said: “Lack of progress in clean cooking is costing the world more than $2.4 trillion (£1.89 trillion) each year, driven by adverse impacts on health, climate, and gender equality.

“Women bear a disproportionate share of this cost in the form of poor health and safety, as well as lost productivity.

“This toll may increase in the ongoing pandemic as household air pollution, resulting from the use of highly polluting fuels and stoves, may make exposed populations more susceptible to COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases.”

The Modern Energy Cooking Services (MECS)

The Modern Energy Cooking Services (MECS) is funded by UK Aid through the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

It is a partnership between researchers, innovators, policy makers, and the Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme (ESMAP), drawing on their expertise and relevant work from around the world to co-construct new knowledge with practitioners and the private sector.

It is led by Loughborough University, UK.

The Clean Cooking Alliance (CCA) works with a global network of partners to build an inclusive industry that makes clean cooking accessible to the three billion people who live each day without it.


Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 20/156

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2020 QS World University Rankings and University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2019.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 7th in the Guardian University League Table 2021, 5th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020 and 6th in The UK Complete University Guide 2021.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

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