Standards and Testing – 2012 Highlights and 2013 Outlook
Of the Alliance’s six global value propositions, partner involvement and collaboration is especially critical in Promoting International Standards. The Alliance’s progress over the past year in developing consensus-based guidelines for clean cookstoves clearly demonstrates how much can be achieved by combining the strengths and expertise of all our partners and by fostering an environment where multiple perspectives are brought together. As we wrap up an exciting year for Standards and Testing (S&T) at the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, we take this time to celebrate this year’s highlights, recognize contributions from our partners, and share our goals for 2013.
Standards and Testing – Critical for improving and assuring performance and quality
The design and manufacturing community is continually improving the performance and quality of their cookstove and fuel products. Thus, not only do cookstove technologies vary in their performance between different manufacturers, performance and quality can change over time and depend on how cookstoves and fuels are used. Independent testing and a standardized vocabulary for evaluating performance and quality are therefore both critical – for users to make informed choices; for manufacturers to affirm their product quality and drive innovation; for investors, donors, and policymakers to have a credible basis for comparing stove performance and quality; and for all stakeholders to have a common terminology for communicating, understanding, and improving stove performance and adoption.
Overview of Standards and Testing Program
The clean cooking sector can benefit immediately from clearer and standardized indicators of performance as well as standardized reporting of testing results, but a formal consensus-based standards process can take several years. Thus the Alliance is working from interim guidelines to develop temporary standardized reporting, evaluate options for standards frameworks, and conduct studies to build the evidence base needed to establish standards. In parallel, the Alliance will support a formal international standards process, which will build from the lessons learned from the interim guidelines.
- International standards development – Work through established processes to develop international standards, including standardized reporting guidelines, that can provide flexibility to accommodate regional cooking practices and testing requirements. Support national standards bodies and Alliances to adapt, adopt, and implement standards at the national level, including certification and labeling. Convene discussions on standards and testing that will inform the standards development process.
- Developing and refining testing protocols – Establish a collaborative process to develop, evaluate, and update protocols that address a broad range of cookstoves, fuels, and indicators. Partner with organizations that are developing protocols and standards, including fuel production, quality and safety, and solar cookers.
- Enhancing testing capacity – Build a global network of regional testing and knowledge centers (RTKCs), and facilitate collaboration and workshops to build human capital and share best practices.
In order to achieve these goals, the Alliance’s S&T activities are guided by three key principles:
- Inclusivity – Standards development must be an inclusive and consensus-based process to ensure that standards meet the needs of all types of organizations.
- Transparency – To optimally address global needs, clear descriptions of decision-making processes are needed, and partners will have opportunities to provide feedback on strategy and specific activities. The Alliance also encourages organizations to harmonize procedures as much as possible and to be transparent about procedures so that results can be evaluated.
- Evidence-based – Decisions will be based on all available evidence, with the understanding that decisions may be updated as new evidence becomes available.
February 2012 – More than 90 stakeholders from 23 countries met in The Hague, Netherlands for an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) meeting that resulted in unanimous support among meeting participants for an International Workshop Agreement (IWA 11:2012). This meeting was co-hosted by the Alliance and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Partnership for Clean Indoor Air (PCIA). The interim guidelines are a significant step forward in developing international standards that can support global efforts to scale clean cookstoves and fuels. The successful agreement was the result of the hard work by the U.S. EPA, who served as the Workshop Chair, the Alliance Secretariat, and many partners who developed and reviewed the IWA draft and attended the meeting to finalize and agree to the IWA.
Ongoing efforts to develop internationally agreed upon cookstove standards and protocols will build on the lessons learned from the IWA. Since the International Workshop, the Alliance has sought to raise awareness and gather feedback about the interim guidelines, and coordinate discussions and studies to address gaps identified in the IWA – including for protocol development and to establish tiers for additional protocols. The Alliance has also integrated the IWA tiers into its monitoring and evaluation framework in order to track progress towards 100 million households adopting clean and efficient fuels by 2020. The Alliance has also drafted and is seeking feedback on interim reporting guidelines, including assurances that IWA tiers are reported consistently, that that testing is conducted according to IWA criteria and with protocols that have tiers outlined and approved by Alliance partners, by technicians and a testing center with no financial stake in the stove being tested, and that testing data is shared publicly.
July 2012 – The Alliance released a Request for Proposals to enhance capacity for a global network of regional testing and knowledge centers (RTKCs), to provide testing, cookstove development, and capacity building services. After an extensive external peer review process, nine centers were selected for awards in Cambodia, Ghana, Honduras, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Uganda (lab and field). These initial awards were supported by DFID, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and GIZ. After the initial awards, additional donors were identified to support centers in four additional countries, which will be announced when they are finalized. The Alliance will be working with these RTKCs and other testing centers to facilitate global collaboration and ensure that their services are broadly accessible to clean cookstove and fuel producers, including stoves and fuel testing, improving stove performance and quality, incorporating feedback from users, improving efficiency and quality of manufacturing processes, and conducting workshops.
August 2012 – Two projects were selected for a Request for Applications, released in August, focused on field studies to evaluate cookstove use and adoption, with a focus on technologies and fuels with promising laboratory performance but limited field data. These projects, with support from Environment Canada and the Shell Corporation, also address definitions, methods, and metrics for assessing cookstove and fuel adoption, usage, and acceptance that can be applied broadly by partners. The first project, a collaboration between Interdisciplinary Group of Appropriate Rural Technology – Mexico, International Clinical Epidemiology Network – Delhi, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Sri Ramachandra University – Chennai, and the University of California Berkeley and Irvine will develop and validate metrics for adoption, usage, and fuel stacking, especially how new stoves displace or don't displace cooking technologies already in use. Berkeley Air Monitoring Group, Centre for Integrated Research and Community Development – Uganda, Ho Chi Minh City University for Natural Resources and Environment, and the University of Nairobi are collaborating to fill key gaps for forced-draft and liquid- and gas-fueled stoves by characterizing in-home, real-world emissions of cookstoves.
October 2012 – Building from recommendations across multiple Alliance Working Groups (Standards and Testing, Monitoring and Evaluation, Climate, and Carbon Finance), the Alliance released a detailed inventory of stove and fuel performance, including emissions, indoor air pollution, efficiency, fuel use, and other metrics from a range of laboratory- and field-based protocols. This Stove Performance Inventory, developed by the Berkeley Air Monitoring Group in partnership with the Alliance and with funding from Environment Canada, contains data from over 600 sets of cookstove performance tests. A detailed report is available in the Resources section of the Alliance’s website
November 2012 – As part of a stakeholder consultation meeting to develop Uganda’s Country Action Plan, the Alliance held a roundtable meeting for the RTKC in Uganda (CREEC and CIRCODU for laboratory and field testing) and local stove producers and manufacturers. The roundtable participants discussed how testing centers can be responsive to needs of Ugandan and East African producers and manufacturers and what information testing centers need from producers to maximize the impact of their services. The Alliance will continue to facilitate these types of discussions for other regions and when there are opportunities for the global community to convene, including at the Clean Cooking Forum 2013.
December 2012 – After careful negotiations to ensure that the international standards development process is inclusive for the Alliance’s partner countries, the Alliance is leading the development of a proposal to ISO for a new standard for cookstoves. If the proposal is accepted by ISO, an ISO working group will be convened to develop a draft standard. The draft will then be reviewed by an ISO technical committee and by ISO national members. Alliance partners, including researchers, testing experts, manufacturers, governments, and investors will work through their country’s national standards body to participate in this international, multi-stakeholder, and consensus process. The Alliance will also facilitate a process to ensure that national standards bodies with different levels of membership can contribute.
In addition to continuing the international standards process into 2013, including integrating additional indicators that were not addressed in the IWA framework like durability, field-based indicators, and standardizing evaluation of fuels, the Alliance is looking forward to progress in several other areas, many of which will support standards development.
Strengthening the global network of testing experts – The Alliance will host an intensive training workshop in January at the U.S. EPA’s stove testing facilities in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA. The focus of this workshop will be on best practices for establishing and enhancing a testing center, including discussions and activities around laboratory management, quality and data management, and equipment calibration and maintenance. To reach a wider audience, the Alliance will record and share videos of key sessions of the training. This event will be part of a series of capacity building workshops, which will rotate through different labs, with the goal of providing opportunities for collaboration, networking, training, and to establish best practices and common data formats.
Maximize impact of RTKCs in 13 countries and beyond – In addition to providing opportunities for collaboration and training, the Alliance will also focus on maximizing the benefit of RTKCs to regional organizations, to help them support partners to improve the quality of their technology and fuels, increase the efficiency, consistency, and scale of production, and facilitate knowledge sharing.
Protocol development and refinement – The Alliance is initiating studies to address gaps in current protocols, including those that were identified in the IWA. These collaborative projects will focus on evaluating protocol options and drafting protocols, which will be shared broadly with testing experts for evaluation and feedback. Initial areas of focus include protocols that address plancha, charcoal, and batch-fed cookstoves, durability (including integration with safety), and the integration of public comments on the Water Boiling Test 4.1.2. We will also facilitate discussions for how to incorporate indicators relating to usability and field performance. With consensus on these protocols, in the next stages of international standards development, we can expand on the protocols and indicators that are in the interim IWA guidelines.
Standardize and share stove performance data – For effective communication about stove performance, testing data needs to be standardized and shared. The Alliance will be working with its partners to develop processes to standardize data formats and share them through the Stove Performance Inventory. In addition, development will continue for the online and searchable version of the Stove Performance Inventory. This effort will be part of the Alliance’s Knowledge Management activities, and will support the Monitoring and Evaluation of the impacts of the Alliance and its partners’ work.
The Alliance will also continue to facilitate collaboration through teleconferences, webinars, online discussions, and when possible, in-person meetings. In particular, we are looking forward to seeing many of you at the Clean Cooking Forum 2013 in Cambodia in March, where we expect to continue to make progress in many areas. It has been a pleasure to see the collaborative spirit of partners working on Standards and Testing, and we look forward to an exciting New Year!