The Importance of Cleaner Fuels
How much of an improvement in health can cookstove technologies and fuels contribute to? That is the key question researchers are examining across wide geographies and cooking technologies.
In order to address the 4 million premature deaths caused by household air pollution each year, the Alliance is working closely with our partners to create effective strategies to scale up the dissemination of cleaner burning fuels and efficient stoves for household cooking. The Alliance continues to work with its partners to build evidence that switching from inefficient and polluting cooking fuels and technologies to cleaner ones will reduce respiratory diseases and other health impacts.
Preliminary exposure results from Alliance-supported child survival research studies in Ghana, Nigeria, and Nepal were unveiled at a special symposium held in Seattle at the annual meeting of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE), the premier technical conference for environmental health researchers. Results indicate substantial reductions in exposure associated with the adoption of cleaner cookstoves and fuels. Moreover, researchers reported high rates of study compliance, and solid evidence that study participants were actively using the intervention stoves. There were also discussions on the implication of these results for achieving the World Health Organizations (WHO) indoor air quality guidelines for household fuel combustion, with a special emphasis on estimating the impact of ‘stove stacking’, or continued use of traditional cookstoves, on the ability to meet air quality guidelines.
These study results will have far reaching implications for Alliance focus countries such as Ghana, Kenya, China, and India, where policy makers and health professionals are well-positioned to increase awareness of the links between household air pollution, fuel switching, and health. For example, given Ghana’s commitment to scaling adoption of clean cookstoves, and providing 50% of the population with access to clean fuels by 2020, the study will provide policy-relevant information for Ghana and the broader global public health community.
Presentations from the symposium are available here:
- Concentration of Indoor Particulate Matter and Carbon Monoxide among Households Using Biomass Fuels in Sarlahi, Nepal: the Effect of Cooking, Fuel Type, and Season – Patrick N Breysse
- High Adoption Rates of an Ethanol Cookstove Associated with Reductions in Exposure to Particulate Matter in a Randomized Controlled Trial in Ibadan, Nigeria – Oladosu Ojengbede
Beyond children’s health, household air pollution (HAP) is also a leading risk factor for non-communicable diseases, particularly among non-smoking women in developing countries. This under-recognized fact was also emphasized at the ISEE conference, thanks to the excellent work of Dr. Anindita Dutta of the The Energy Research Institute (TERI) in Delhi, India.
Dr. Dutta won the award for best new research contributed scientific paper, ‘Sputum analysis is an indicator of deteriorating pulmonary health: study on rural Indian women exposed to biomass smoke during cooking.’ Her study results demonstrate how women cooking with traditional solid fuels are at increased risk of developing lung disease compared to women who cook with LPG.
“These may be the underlying key players involved in causing deterioration of the pulmonary health of biomass-using women. Hence, intervention steps must be implemented by the regulatory authorities and policy makers to ensure good health and living conditions to the poor underprivileged women of rural India.” said Dr. Dutta.
A pdf copy of her presentation is available here, and the more detailed scientific publication is available here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1438463912000673
And this work is only the tip of the iceberg.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has just funded researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to assess the impacts of fuel and cookstove interventions in rural Rwanda. The study will focus on Inyenyeri, a renewable biomass energy company, that is providing households in Rwanda with the Philips gasifying stove at no expense and recovering the costs through the sale of biomass fuel pellets. The results are expected to deliver HAP reductions that rival LPG.
Researchers at Chapel Hill are also performing field testing and exposure monitoring for a study in Malawi examining fuel use and CO and PM2.5 exposure rates in both urban and rural settings as part of a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Award.
Next week the Alliance will participate in a workshop entitled “Evaluation activities and requirements for effective large-scale national transitions to LPG from solid fuels: drafting of an evaluation proposal for monitoring successful scaling-up of LPG in Cameroon.” The objective of the workshop, to be held at the Foresight Centre of the University of Liverpool, (UK), will be to review the emerging opportunities and issues for evaluation of LPG as a clean fuel for cooking. A second task will be to draft an evaluation proposal to assess LPG adoption and its potential for scalability in countries with existing or planned LPG rollout programs such as Cameroon. This proposal will take into account the policy context, barriers, and facilitators of market expansions such as fuel and stove supply. The Global LPG Partnership is coordinating the workshop.
These and other cooking-related research activities are illustrative of the increasing global efforts to strengthen the evidence base on the potential health benefits of adopting cleaner cookstoves and fuels. The Alliance’s Phase 1 fuels strategy only further demonstrates this point. Our fuels strategy has focused on enabling the market and strengthening supply. We have commissioned research to identify barriers across the fuels supply chain, supported capacity building of fuel enterprises with the potential to scale, increased the number of investors and resources to support scale up and adoption in priority markets, and developed mechanisms to share best practices.
As we enter Phase 2, we will continue our work in these areas, but move towards rapidly growing our focus country markets and enhancing demand by building awareness and improving affordability and accessibility in order for consumers to transition to cleaner fuel options. Many of these efforts are already underway and involve sharing lessons learned from Phase 1, increasing awareness and delivering research that continues to demonstrate the health, climate, livelihood, and gender benefits of clean fuel, providing innovative funding options and de-risking instruments that support growth needs for organizations in the sector and continuing to drive scale by focusing on clean fuels within our focus countries.
In Ghana, our work has allowed us to partner with the leading experts in the LPG field, helping to develop a master investment plan for Ghana that will identify the critical investments in infrastructure related to supply, storage, distribution, filling, retail, and consumer finance required to accelerate the adoption of LPG domestically, and the changes in LPG-related governmental policy and regulation necessary for the investments to be viable and bankable. This work will lay the foundation for a strong, sustainable supply of LPG for Ghana and help to achieve the government’s goal of transitioning 50% of the population to LPG as their primary cooking fuel in the next few years.
In Nigeria, through the Alliance’s Spark Fund, we are helping a local ethanol gel enterprise reach commercial viability and scale by providing business capacity development and helping them to overcome their barriers to growth with technical assistance and financial support.
Our plans for East Africa involve convening the local briquette producers and distributors to engage them in a dialogue to understand the barriers that have kept them from achieving scale and penetrating the rural markets, and offering viable interventions and sharing research and knowledge that will help them overcome these challenges.
In India, the environment is primed to scale up solutions such as efficient use of biomass, and in many instances, allowing us to “skip steps” on the fuel ladder by looking at the feasibility of extending the clean fuel supply chains to rural areas for LPG and induction stoves.
In addition, over the next year, we will be performing a global analysis of the various impacts across different fuel supply chains to identify barriers, strengthen the case for investors, and support decision-making for partners on fuels and we will share lessons learned from our efforts so that other country partners can learn and succeed in their own markets.