Clean cooking push suffers from 'shocking' lack of funding

BARCELONA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Funding to boost the numbers of people with access to electric power and clean cooking is too low to meet the global goal for everyone to have modern, reliable and affordable energy by 2030, international organizations said on Monday.

Just over 3 billion people still use traditional, solid fuels like firewood and dung to cook, the latest data shows.

Lack of finance to end the use of polluting cooking fuels for cooking is “shocking”, said Rachel Kyte, CEO of Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), a body set up by the last U.N. chief.

“The problem is becoming bigger rather than smaller,” Kyte told reporters. “The levels of finance for clean cooking are so far away from where they would need to be to produce progress.”

Close to 90 percent of Bangladeshis lack access to clean cooking, with many relying on poorly vented clay stoves, while more than 70 percent of Nigerians use wood as their main cooking fuel, stoking deforestation, said a report by SEforALL produced with the World Bank, Climate Policy Initiative and the African Development Bank, among others.

Across the 20 countries with the biggest gaps in access, international and domestic investment in residential clean cooking averaged just $32 million a year in 2013-14, compared to an estimated annual need of at least $4.4 billion globally.

In the report, Kyte called for “a frank new dialogue around bold market-based strategies that can deploy clean fuels and technologies for cooking”. Without that, “the millions of women and children who suffer and die every year from dirty cooking fuels will not diminish.”

Not enough governments - especially in sub-Saharan Africa - treat clean cooking as a priority, she said. And the focus has been on designing more efficient stoves at the expense of providing cleaner fuels, such as gas and solar induction.


Funding for electrification is better but yearly commitments across the 20 nations home to most of those lacking power are still less than half of the $45 billion needed for universal access, the report said.

Roughly 60 percent of the money went to India, Bangladesh and the Philippines, it said, and about a fifth of the total was provided by China, the largest bilateral financier.

Only 1 percent, $200 million a year, went to “decentralized” solutions, such as household solar systems and mini-grids, the report said, even though they have the potential to deliver basic electricity affordably to remote communities.

Paul Smith Lomas, CEO of development charity Practical Action, which contributed to the report, said such technologies are “the most economical solution to meet the needs of the majority of unconnected people by 2030”.

“To make these technologies more available to communities, and to achieve universal access, national policies must also better understand and support local businesses, banking and markets,” he said in a statement.

Some progress is being made, notably in pioneering countries like Kenya, where rising use of mobile money has attracted private-sector investment in “pay as you go” solar systems.

Slow progress on clean cooking and getting electric power to the 1 billion without it undermine international agreements to end poverty and hunger and curb climate change, said Kyte, denying people “a fundamental building block” of prosperity.