New report identifies crucial drivers needed for transforming the modern energy cooking sector

Clean cooking remains a significantly underfunded sector in low-income countries, leading to a continued reliance on polluting fuels that have devastating health and environmental impacts.

The £40m Loughborough-led Modern Energy Cooking Services (MECS) programme is funded by UK Aid (FCDO) and aims to spark a revolution through rapidly accelerating the transition from biomass to clean cooking technologies on a global scale.

The new Modern Energy Cooking: Review of the Funding Landscape report – the culmination of a major research partnership between Energy 4 Impact and MECS – addresses the funding challenges faced by the sector and aims to galvanize greater investment in clean cooking.

Based on research, surveys, and interviews with 60 clean cooking companies, funders and organisations, the report identifies three key drivers crucial for scaling and transforming modern energy cooking. These are:

  • Smart data technology

Modern energy cooking companies are increasingly using ‘smart data’ features and pay-as-you-go technologies, which can remotely track the usage of fuels and enable digital payments which reduce transaction costs. Digital payment solutions are attractive for (lower income) customers and smart data features enable a more accurate tracking of fuel consumption and energy efficiency. The latter further unlocks the opportunity for companies to access carbon credits, an increasingly important financing source due to the high emissions savings of modern energy cooking solutions.

  • Integration of cooking with the wider energy agendas

There have been significant investments in grid and off-grid electricity networks in recent years, but this is not yet mirrored by similar funding efforts for clean cooking access. According to the International Energy Agency, around 153 million people globally have gained access to electricity annually, but approximately two billion people with access to some form of electricity continue to cook with biomass fuels. This is despite evidence that grid-based electric cooking is already viable in many settings due to new energy efficient appliances such as electric pressure cookers, falling prices of lithium-ion batteries and solar photovoltaic (PV) power, and the rising cost of biomass fuels. By integrating clean cooking in energy planning, the very large investments being directed at the electricity sector can be leveraged to also promote clean cooking.

  • Engagement of leading Development Banks

In the past, multilateral development banks (MDBs) and other large development finance institutions (DFIs) have neglected the cooking sector in their mainstream operations, as improved cookstove projects did not correspond with the larger investment profiles they normally target. The emergence of modern energy cooking solutions increasingly provides an opportunity for these institutions to scale up their engagements and investment into the clean cooking sector. With the growing market and diverse players entering the modern energy cooking sector, there is a need for the large DFIs to bring their expertise and resources from the energy access space in support of the clean cooking sector.

The Modern Energy Cooking: Review of the Funding Landscape report is one of five in the Financing Clean Cooking series produced by MECS and Energy 4 Impact. The series provides a comprehensive and unprecedented analysis of the financing mechanisms currently at play within the clean cooking sector and offers recommendations to donors on the interventions needed to support the growth of this vital industry. The previous reports can be downloaded here:

Clean Cooking: Scaling Up with Crowdfunding

Clean Cooking: Financing Appliances for End Users

Clean Cooking: Structuring Concessions for Displaced People

Clean Cooking: Results-Based Financing as a Potential Scale-up Tool for the Sector

The five-year MECS programme is led by Loughborough’s Professor Ed Brown. By integrating modern energy cooking services into energy planning, MECS hopes to leverage investment in renewable energy (particularly in electricity access, both grid and off grid) to address the clean cooking challenge. The intended outcome is a market-ready range of innovations which lead to improved choices of affordable, reliable and sustainable modern energy cooking services for consumers.

For further information on MECS click here. A briefing note on the latest report can be downloaded here.