Preferences for Improved Cook Stoves: Evidence from North Indian Villages
Because emissions from solid fuel burning in traditional stoves impacts global climate change, the regional environment, and household health, there is today a real fascination with improved cookstoves (ICS). Nonetheless, surprisingly little is known about what households like about these energy products. We report on preferences for ICS attributes in a large sample of 2,120 rural households in north India, a global hotspot for biomass fuel use as well as its negative consequences. Households have a strong preference for traditional stoves, but are willing to pay (WTP) about $10 and $5 for realistic reductions in smoke emissions and fuel needs on average, respectively, or about half of the price of less expensive ICS. Still, preferences for stove attributes are highly varied, and related to household characteristics (e.g. expenditures, gender of household head, patience and risk preferences). These results suggest that households exhibit cautious interest in the promise of ICS, but that there remain significant barriers to achieving widespread adoption. Therefore the policy community must reinvigorate a supply chain that (a) experiments with product attributes and (b) segments the market based on consumer education, wealth and location, in order to scale up ICS distribution and deliver household and global benefits.