Study Shows Broad Impacts of Stove Adoption in Mongolia
A recent study sponsored by the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) found that widespread adoption of energy-efficient stoves in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, had significant impacts on outdoor air quality and health. Ulaanbaatar is one of the coldest and most polluted capital cities in the world. Visibly poor air quality is a major concern of both residents of Ulaanbaatar and the government. The combination of environmental pollutants and the associated health risks and economic impacts presented a difficult challenge to development, which prompted the MCC’s Energy and Environment Project (EEP).
MCC’s EEP subsidized the cost of energy-efficient stoves, with the objective of reducing ambient air pollution. The target population for the project consisted of residents of the peri-urban “ger district” on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar. The district gets its name from the “gers,” traditional round portable tent dwellings that dot the landscape. The typical inhabitants of the ger district are formally nomadic or rural Mongolians who moved to the city in search of economic opportunity. Households in the ger district are poorer and rely heavily on coal-burning stoves to heat their homes in winter, when temperatures range from around -20C during the day to -40C at night. Heavy coal use in Ulaanbaatar’s residential stoves is estimated to contribute up to 70% of PM2.
The initial findings are encouraging. The study measured the emissions from the energy-efficient stoves and found that the subsidized stoves effectuated a 65% decrease in PM2.5 emissions and a 16% decrease in carbon monoxide. Additionally, modeling showed that widespread adoption of energy-efficient stoves reduced outdoor air pollution in Ulaanbaatar by 30%, which is due in part to a significant reduction in PM2.5. Illustrating the impact that reductions in air pollution can have on health, the switch to energy-efficient stoves was estimated to have prevented 47 premature deaths and 1,643 disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) during the year in which the data was collected. The study was conducted from 2011 to 2013, and during that time more than 103,255 of the subsidized, energy-efficient stoves were purchased.
Although this study focused narrowly on a population within Ulaanbaatar, it has much broader implications for community-based projects, showing that large-scale rollouts of cleaner and more efficient household cooking and heating technologies have the potential to significantly impact both environment and health.