UNEP/WFP validates Solar Electric Cooking Costs and Benefits

The world is finally starting to wake up to off-grid electric cooking.

I recently received an email with a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme – Copenhagen Climate Centre (UNEP-CCC) in coordination with the World Food Programme. The document is titled “Powering Progress: Market Creation Strategies for Solar e-Cooking Technologies in Off-grid and Displaced Communities”.

It reads like a marketing brochure for SUNSPOT™, pointing out many things that we have been saying for more than five years, and coming up with numbers on expenditures and savings which closely match the ones we have been talking about Annex 2 describes their estimates of costs and benefits, which match the numbers we have been promoting for many years.

Table 3 summarises the key numbers, indicators and estimated impacts of SOLCO based on the roll-out of a broad group of solar e-cooking technologies with an 80% use rate by the target 250,000 households (HH). They are assuming microfinancing at household level, rather than our EAAS business model.

Table 3. Indicators for the social and environmental impacts of solar e-cooking

Savings on direct cooking expenditure per household (HH), per yearUSD 228
Direct financial savings and income benefits from improved health per HH, per year (estimated, based on health care costs and increased productivity)USD 100
Time saving from reduction in fuel acquisition and preparation per HH, per year800 hrs
Lives saved from premature deaths due to household air pollution for 250,000 HHs8,333
Averted Disability Adjusted Life Years (ADALYs) for 250,000 HHs899,264
Annual carbon emission reductions for 250,000 HHs680,000 – 1,114,000 tCO2e

There are numerous other environmental and social co-benefits of solar e-cooking, including an increased percentage of local biodiversity maintained, x number of hectares of forest saved and new ‘green jobs’ created. However, since these are very context-specific they are excluded from table 3.

Table 4. Assumptions and drivers to support the business case for solar e-cooking

Direct expenditure on solid biomass cooking fuels, per year per HH135USD 285
Savings from phone charging and lighting if powered by solar e-cooking system, per HH per yearUSD 25
Direct fuel cost per year of cooking with solar-electric cookingn/a
Cost (CAPEX) per solar e-cooking systemsUSD 400 -1,000
Cost of insurance over 5 years per solar electric unitUSD 100
Cost of financing (microfinancing at HH level) per solar e-cooking system, over 5 yearsUSD 50 – 100
Price per tCO2e verified emission reduction from switch to solar e-cookingUSD 10 – 25
Carbon credit value over 5 years, per HHUSD 100 – 500
Net tCO2e carbon emission reductions per HH per year2 – 4 tCO2e
Total net tCO2e carbon emission reductions for 250,000 HHs, over 5 years3.4 – 5.6 MtCO2e

As you can see, their estimates of expenditures on cooking fuel, lighting and phone charging add up to $315 per year. We have been talking about sustainability at $25 per month, before carbon credits. Their estimate of “Direct financial savings and income benefits” is $100 per year, which I think underestimates the value of women, especially since they estimate that this solution will save 800 hours per year – 40% of a standard FTE (Full Time Employee)!

In addition, on 14 May 2024, the “Summit on Clean Cooking for Africa” in Paris announced 2.2 billion US Dollars in financing over the next 10 years. We are discussing pre-commercial pilot projects, combined with user experience studies to gather critical data, with potential partners in several countries in Africa and elsewhere. These system deployments will be combined with user experience studies to gather critical data. We are currently looking for sources of grant funding to finance these projects.

Powering progress: market creation strategies for solar e-cooking technologies in off-grid and displaced communities | World Food Programme (wfp.org)