Tapping the Potential of Proalcool for the Household Energy Sector

“Tapping the Potential of Proalcool for the Household Energy Sector” Shell Foundation Project # 21316 Results of Project Gaia’s 100 CleanCook Stove Pilot Study Minas Gerais State, Brazil
Regina Couto, Director Project Gaia Brazil, for Banco do Povo 17 January 2007

Introduction and Community Selection

The pilot phase of Project Gaia in Brazil began its field implementation in July of 2005 with the following immediate objectives: a) to install Clean Cook ethanol stoves in 100 households throughout Minas Gerais state, b) to assess user acceptance of the stove and fuel in rural and urban households by measuring, among other factors, perceived and actual stove/fuel safety, ease of use, convenience, appearance, cleanliness, and overall performance in fuel consumption economics. Long term objectives included: to understand the feasibility of rural, community-based cooperatives or associations in manufacturing and supplying their own ethanol to fuel the stoves through the use of microdistilleries, and to evaluate the stove’s potential impact on local cutting of wood for cooking fuel and in reduction of indoor air pollution.

At the outset, the Project Gaia team in Brazil had decided to install the pilot households in communities near an ethanol distillery, so as to have a guaranteed fuel supply at lower prices than having to buy ethanol from fuel stations. The reason for doing so was directly related to the increasing high ethanol prices that were affected by several months of escalating petroleum prices. Ethanol fuel in Brazil today is linked to the gasoline market price, since ethanol is a competing fuel with gasoline in Brazil.

When the Project Gaia team proposed this project to Shell Foundation Back in 2004, the price of oil in the international market was about US$ 30 per barrel, while at the time of implementation of the project in Brazil, oil prices were above US$ 60 per barrel.

Ethanol distilleries in Brazil today have 3 primary positive options to market its produced sugar cane:

• First, distilleries make ethanol for the domestic fuel market, which has grown substantially since 2003 with the introduction of the flex-fuel cars in the market. In 2003 just 10% of the near 2 million new cars sold annually in Brazil were flex-fuel, while in 2006 it is above 90%. These new flex-fuel cars contributed to the increase in the price of ethanol; given the higher prices for gasoline in Brazil, flex-fuel owners switched to ethanol . As a result ethanol already represents about 40% of the gasoline fuel market today. Therefore there was a substantial increased demand in the domestic market, which inflated ethanol prices.
• Second, with the significant increase in the oil prices internationally, there was an increased global demand in ethanol for blending. Ethanol ranged from 2 to 10% of the composition of the gasoline/ethanol fuel blend in several countries worldwide. Brazil, being the main ethanol exporter in the world, of course benefited from this, which, as a result, added pressure on the Brazilian production capacity and led to inflated prices.

• Third, the international market price for raw sugar also increased significantly, giving the sugar cane producer another product with a high rate of return.

Therefore, with higher prices for ethanol at the commercial fuel stations in Brazil, Project Gaia team decided to establish the project in communities where there would be a possibility to have less dependency on higher priced ethanol from gas stations, e.g. near an ethanol distillery that could supply ethanol at a much lower price. For this reason, Project Gaia Field Manager Regina Couto, in coordination with Winrock International advisors (Rogerio Miranda and Andre Oliver), followed leads of 12 potential communities meeting these requirements within Minas Gerais. One community was located near a large distillery and the 11 others were near a micro-distillery. After a careful review of these communities, and evaluating positives and negatives aspects for each community, including site visits, the team decided on the following communities:

• Dom Orione, Betim: A rural community of 39 families near Belo Horizonte, where there was an Ethanol Micro-Distillery (EMD). This community was created from an agrarian reform settlement, and each family cultivated the land with different products (fruits, vegetables, grains, sugar cane, pasture, etc). There is a smaller group of 28 families who own an EMD, which were then the total number of families that participated in the stoves project. The reasons for selecting this community were (1) the existence of an EMD, (2) the fact that they are an organized rural community, and (3) the proximity of Betim to where Regina resides.

• Santo Antonio neighborhood, Salinas: An urban low income neighborhood of the city of Salinas, which is located in the northern part of Minas Gerais state (610 km north of Belo Horizonte). A total of 38 families and one children’s day care center have tested the stoves. The reasons for selecting Santo Antonio were: near Salinas there were 2 operating EMD that could supply ethanol at a lower cost, the possibility of installing more EMD near the city in the future, and it is a region of Minas Gerais state with a lower score on the Human Development Index.

• Jatiboca sugar mill, Urucânia. A rural settlement owned by Jatiboca ethanol mill. Twenty of the families were selected to test the clean cook stove. The reasons for selecting Jatiboca were: the free ethanol fuel supplied by the ethanol mill for the duration of the pilot study, and the idea of establishing a relationship with the owner of the Jatiboca mill (Mr. Luiz Custodio Cotta Martins), who is the president of the Ethanol Mills Association of Minas Gerais state (SIAMIG).

The other nine communities were not selected mostly due to a lack of interest by the community or the fuel supplier, long distances between the community and nearest fuel supplier, and being very poor communities, among others. The process of site selection took several months because of the laborious task of searching for leads of potential communities.

The field testing of the CleanCook stoves began in early April of 2006, although the original plan was to start it back in the fourth quarter of 2005. The delay in field testing was attributed to the need to spend more time to appropriately select among the dozen potential communities, and also to wait for the next sugar cane harvest season which was scheduled to begin in June-July 2006.

During this period of waiting, the team began a long and bureaucratic process to import the 100 CleanCook stoves from South Africa. Also, they implemented a baseline data survey and conducted stove operation and safety trainings for each of the selected families.

For each community, a local assistant was hired and trained to facilitate weekly surveys, arrange fuel supplies to the families, and troubleshoot any problems that may arise.

See report Attached