DMU researchers to help address cooking habits of three billion people

Researchers at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) are working to find innovative, clean and modern alternatives to biomass fuels such as charcoal and wood, which are currently used by three billion people to cook their food.

In a new £39.8 million project led by Loughborough University in conjunction with UK aid and the World Bank, DMU researchers from the Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development will help develop efficient electric and gas cooking appliances as an alternative to charcoal and wood stoves.

DMU researchers help find sustainable cooking fuels

Dr Rupert Gammon, leader of the DMU research team for this project, said: “We are delighted to play a central role in this major project that aligns so well with DMU’s aim to undertake research of international societal impact that addresses global challenges and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“Drawing on our previous work in this field, DMU’s contribution to this project is to implement the remote monitoring and control systems that will collect data on the usage and performance of the cooking devices. The system sends the data to us here in the UK for further analysis, which is key to the development and wider rollout of clean cooking appliances across the global south”. 

More than a third of the world’s population use unsustainable and polluting fuel to cook, leading to around four million premature deaths every year – primarily among women and children.

Using charcoal and wood to cook has a significant impact on climate change, contributing 3% of the total CO2 emissions every year. The use of these biomass fuels, particularly charcoal, involves cutting and burning of wood sources, of which 34% comes from unsustainable sources.

This new project will find ways for two billion people who already use electricity at home to use it to cook in an affordable, reliable and sustainable way. It will also find solutions to provide clean cooking options for the one billion people that do not yet have access to electricity. 

The programme will:

  • Create a Challenge Fund, managed by the partners, for tech companies, research institutions and NGOs to apply for funding to invent alternatives to the use of traditional biomass fuels used in cooking. This fund will ask researchers to consider energy storage options, the impact on grid and infrastructure and alternative fuels such as LPG, ethanol and biogas all as possibilities for modern energy cooking services;
  • Develop new technologies that make electric and gas cooking appliances more efficient, practical, desirable and affordable for poorer households;
  • Work with the private sector to develop business models and financing methods that will help get electric and gas cooking appliances onto the market; and
  • Provide evidence and insights on how and when countries can transition to modern energy cooking services.

Harriett Baldwin, Minister of State for Africa at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Minister of State for International Development, said: “We cannot ignore the impact of using unsustainable wood and charcoal when cooking at home on climate change and people’s health. That’s why UK aid is working in partnership to help make sure billions more people have access to clean, efficient, and affordable modern energy for cooking.

“By using British expertise from world-leading UK research institutions and the private sector we can bring together the right technology, ideas and researchers to help tackle climate change and prevent millions of unnecessary deaths.

Professor Ed Brown, national co-coordinator of the UK Low Carbon Energy for Development Network at Loughborough University, said: "For too long clean cooking has been the poor relation of the global clean energy sector, receiving less attention and funding than electricity access. Without a major change in direction, the global commitment to bringing clean modern cooking services to everyone by 2030 stands no chance of being met.

“With this programme, we intend to provoke a revolution in how the international community approaches this issue and significantly accelerate the progress being made in moving people away from cooking with biomass to really clean and modern energy cooking services."

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This partnership is working to achieve one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

As the lead higher education institute in the United Nation’s ‘Together’ campaign, DMU is committed to supporting the UN’s SDGs to ensure all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. DMU encourages students, alumni and partners in universities and organisations around the world to address these 17 goals through pioneering research, community work and academic excellence.

Alongside researchers from DMU, Loughborough University will also work with other UK research institutions such as The University of Birmingham, Durham University, Gamos, The University of Liverpool, University College London, Newcastle University, University of Strathclyde, The University of Surrey and The University of Sussex.

Posted on Friday 5th April 2019

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