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New research highlights critical next steps for scaling the clean cooking sector in Rwanda


As the in-country partner for the Modern Energy Cooking Services (MECS) programme funded by UK aid (FCDO) in Rwanda, Energy 4 Impact has culminated its research collaboration examining the clean cooking sector with two new reports: Feasibility study into running awareness-raising campaigns to promote electric cooking in Rwanda and Plan of Action: Rwanda’s transition to modern energy cooking. The reports outline critical next steps for public and private stakeholders towards popularising clean cooking technologies in Rwanda through the coordination of awareness-raising campaigns and the navigation of constraints to market growth.

Commencing in February 2021, the MECS programme has undertaken an in-depth review of clean cooking markets and relevant national policy in Rwanda. Despite its dire impact on the environment and household health, the use of biomass for cooking remains predominant even in newly electrified areas. Electric cookstoves represent a vital solution and previous research from Energy 4 Impact in the form of household cooking diaries indicates that popular national dishes can be adapted to e-cooking easily and economically. However, the clean cooking sector faces a number of constraints on both supply and demand sides when it comes to growing the customer base. Awareness of the benefits of clean cooking amongst potential customers remains low and there is a lack of affordable cookstoves with financing options on the market. There is also a dearth of mature cookstove companies with access to capital for growth, technical capacity and an adequate supply chain.

Commenting on the launch of the reports, Professor Ed Brown, MECS Research Director (Loughborough University) states, “The research workstream led by Energy 4 Impact offers a pioneering foundation of evidence around the challenges and gaps within the modern energy cooking landscape. Galvanising discussion of the findings contained in these two reports will help us strengthen our partnerships with the Government of Rwanda, development partners, donors and the private sector, allowing us to build more of a consensus around an effective pathway for scaling electric cooking in Rwanda. We need to join forces more effectively across the public and private sectors to accelerate the uptake of electric cooking in Rwanda and deliver lasting co-benefits in terms of health, environment, gender and livelihoods”.

The first report, Feasibility Study for awareness raising campaign for electric cooking in Rwanda, outlines key elements for designing an effective awareness-raising campaign in order to achieve behaviour change in the community. Whilst the government of Rwanda embarked upon awareness-raising around clean cooking in 2017, the participation of clean cooking companies has so far been minimal, so development organisations should step in to ensure they have the technical skills, financial capacity and marketing knowhow in place to drive the promotion of electric cooking. Whilst the messaging of such campaigns is straightforward with a focus on how e-cooking is cleaner, faster, healthier and more affordable than cooking with firewood or charcoal, various modes of communication including print and electronic media and direct marketing need to be deployed to reach different target groups. Demonstration sessions at local institutions such as schools or prisons could be a powerful tool for raising awareness in the community as they allow local people to practice cooking on electric cookstoves.

The second report Plan of Action: Rwanda’s transition to modern energy cooking identifies priority steps for various stakeholders at all levels to overcome existing challenges and gaps in order to achieve the widespread adoption of clean cooking. It recommends that regulators reduce import tariffs and taxes on electric cooking appliances manufactured abroad to allow new efficient appliances to cost-compete, whilst at the same time improving quality standards to ensure only high-performing appliances reach the Rwandan market. Financiers could also support Rwandan clean cooking companies to develop well-designed and affordable appliances, suited to a wider segmentation of markets, by offering more capital alongside technical assistance on leadership, design, sales and marketing. End-user financing models such as PAYGO and asset financing also need to be put in place so customers can afford higher spec appliances by spreading payments over time with a reduced upfront payment. However, more evidence-based research is needed to appropriately inform policy and decision-makers in the public and private sectors.

Project Coordinator at Energy 4 Impact, Saulve Divin Ntivunwa, emphasises the importance of disseminating this research to advocate for changes in policy and product development. He comments,

We are now sharing the clear and in-depth research contained within these two reports with our two main government partners: the research department of the national utility Rwanda Energy Group (REG) and its subsidiary Energy Development Corporation Limited (EDCL). Feeding into their own research, it will be used as the basis for future policy and regulatory frameworks. We anticipate that our findings will also provide a crucial steer to clean cooking companies seeking to overcome common challenges. Whilst the recent influx of private sector companies setting up in this sector is very welcome, we hope that our research hastens the transition to a more mature sector better equipped to meet the needs of local communities.

Modern Energy Cooking Services (MECS) is a seven-year programme funded by UK aid (FCDO) which aims to accelerate the transition in cooking away from biomass to modern energy. By integrating modern energy cooking services into energy planning, MECS hopes to leverage investment in clean electricity access, both grid and off-grid, to address the clean cooking challenge. Modern energy cooking is tier 5 clean cooking, and therefore MECS also supports new innovations in other relevant cooking fuels such as biogas, LPG (bio) and ethanol, though the evidence points to the viability, cost effectiveness, and user satisfaction that energy efficient electric cooking devices provide. The intended outcome is a market-ready range of innovations (technology and business models) which lead to improved choices of affordable, reliable and sustainable modern energy cooking services for consumers. The organisation seeks to have their principles adopted in the SDG7 global tracking framework, including integrating access (7.1), renewables (7.2) and energy efficiency (7.3) whilst promoting an informed integrated approach.  

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