Daina is a mother and a hairdresser in Accra, Ghana. After work, she returns home and sets her new Envirofit cookstove on a table by a window and lights some charcoal in it to make Banku for her daughter. Daina also owns a four-burner LPG stove. Once the charcoal in her Envirofit cookstove is warm, she opens the oven door to her LPG stove and removes a pot. Dania doesn’t cook on her LPG stove, instead she uses it for storage. Using LPG stoves for something other than cooking isn’t only seen in Ghana – women in India, Kenya and Latin America often use theirs the same way.
Stove stacking – owning multiple stoves that use different fuels – is common across lower and middle income countries. Households in these markets may have access to more modern LPG fuel and stoves, but still make the choice to cook with charcoal, wood or other biomass fuel. Though changing household cooking behaviors can be difficult when transitioning to cleaner stoves and fuels, LPG is a fuel that women around the world already aspire to cook with. However, even with increasing global access to LPG, the number one barrier that prevents them from using it is cost.
But cost isn’t the actual barrier to LPG use, only a perceived one. Changing this perception could save millions of lives.
Why do people think LPG is too expensive?
In many of the peri-urban and urban markets Envirofit serves, charcoal is the de facto cooking fuel, sold everywhere by street corner vendors in cans or plastic bags. Charcoal is often used in traditional stoves that only burn at around 20% efficiency in the best of circumstances. Envirofit has developed the cleanest burning, most efficient charcoal stoves ever tested, but as people move up the energy ladder, charcoal can’t compare to the efficiency, ease of use, and emissions reductions of LPG.
LPG, on the other hand, is currently more difficult to access in the same markets. It is dispensed from a few centralized vendors and comes in pressurized tanks that hook up directly to user’s stoves. LPG burns at 40-50% efficiency, and has only been widely commercially available for less than 100 years.
Amazingly, modern, cleaner-burning LPG can be as affordable or even cheaper than charcoal.
LPG adoption in emerging markets has been slow due to limited access, and the perception of LPG as an expensive and inconsistent fuel. This is because unlike firewood and charcoal, which are easily purchased in daily amounts for use as needed, LPG is only available for purchase in bulk, generally monthly. Most consumer goods come in a variety of sizes designed to suit different needs – Colgate makes both family sized and travel sized tubes of toothpaste – however LPG has so far been one-size-fits-all. Buying fuel one month at a time does not match the consumption patterns of families who must make daily fuel purchases, and this difference has stymied LPG adoption.
Purchase frequency determines price
Because it is more convenient to buy charcoal than LPG, people in emerging markets pay as much as $1 per day for it when they make daily purchases. However, if an equivalent amount of LPG could be purchased daily the cost would be only $0.56 per day. If the option to make daily LPG purchases was available, it would be nearly half the cost of cooking with charcoal.
Over 80% of Sub-Saharan Africans cook using charcoal, many of them paying for it daily. These daily charcoal purchases cost families 76% more – around $30 per month for charcoal versus $17 per month for LPG. Buying fuel this way can cost families up to 1/3 of their income. To put this into perspective, if the same were true in the US it would mean an individual earning the average GDP per capita of $55,000 would pay $19,000 per year to cook for their family.
LPG access through innovation
To solve the problem of affordability and to increase LPG adoption, Envirofit has pioneered the SmartGas program, which allows consumers to pay for gas in daily increments. The SmartGas program represents the first pay-as-you-cook LPG service that is scalable and aimed at customers in emerging markets. The program seeks to make LPG more affordable by integrating mobile money with Envirofit’s dedicated customer support and their innovative new SmartGas™ Valve.
Through the pay-as-you-cook model, Envirofit aims to build a brand around LPG that can overcome access, affordability and trust barriers that have hindered adoption. Household LPG tanks will be outfitted with Envirofit’s SmartGas™ technology that allows families to prepay via mobile phone for the amount of gas they need, and have access to LPG on credit. Envirofit will also develop an LPG distribution system that offers door-to door delivery service, thus reducing the distance that consumers must travel to refill bottles. Envirofit hopes to convert consumers who currently cook with charcoal to exclusive LPG use, and in doing so provide access to affordable LPG to 1 million customers over the next five years.
The benefits of cleaner cooking
Envirofit SmartGas LPG will benefit households, communities and the environment. Because it burns cleaner than biomass, cooking with LPG reduces the amount of deadly Household Air Pollution that families, and especially women, are exposed to. And it decreases black carbon emissions, which is the second largest cause of climate change. It also creates jobs through distribution and delivery, and reduces deforestation by lessening dependence on biomass fuel.
Cooking with LPG has been the preferred choice of most biomass fuel users for years, but barriers to adoption have prevented them from accessing it. We want to support people no matter where they’re at or how they cook with affordable, clean cooking solutions. Envirofit’s best-selling wood and charcoal stoves will continue to evolve and improve for our customers who use them, and now with the addition of SmartGas™ LPG we can offer even more affordable clean cooking options to families around the world.
Pokhrel, Amad K., et al. “PM2.5 in household kitchens of Bhaktapur, Nepal, using four different cooking fuels”. Atmospheric Environment 113 (2015) 159e168
To learn more about Envirofit’s LPG program contact email@example.com