What Drives the Transition to Modern Energy Cooking Services? A Systematic Review of the Evidence
Some 4 billion people—more than half of the global population—are without access to modern energy cooking services (MECS), instead relying on traditional biomass fuels using rudimentary stove technologies that burn fuels inefficiently (ESMAP 2020). The adverse development impacts from households’ continued use of polluting stove-and-fuel combinations are significant. Household air pollution (HAP) accounts for some 4 million premature deaths each year, disproportionately affecting women and children (WHO 2018). Fuel harvesting and use represent a significant time burden for women and girls, who may spend up to six hours per day on cooking-related tasks. A substantial share of cooking woodfuel is harvested unsustainably, and residential cooking contributes significantly to global black carbon emissions (Bailis et al. 2017; Batchelor et al. 2019). Transitioning this population to MECS—part of UN Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7), which aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all by 2030—would thus have important development benefits, particularly for public health, climate/environment, and gender equality (United Nations General Assembly 2015).
The minimal success of past cookstove programs has been attributed to their failure to account for important supply- and demand-side considerations, including affordability, availability of fuels and parts, and sociocultural values. Many of the documented barriers are highly context-specific, reflecting the individual or household-level scale at which they have been analyzed. Increasingly, development organizations are moving away from a predominantly project-level approach, which lacks the scale and speed required for low-access countries to achieve universal access by 2030 (IEG 2015). Many such organizations are moving toward sectorwide frameworks and engagement plans for implementing rapid access scale up. This trend creates an urgent need to ask what factors are critical to driving such a large-scale transition and what solutions can overcome barriers to scaling.