Paul Anderson, March, 2009
“Air-controlled” biomass cookstoves should be seriously examined as viable replacements for charcoal cookstoves in urban and peri-urban communities in developing societies.
II. Situation, Problem and Opportunity:
Throughout the urban areas of developing societies, charcoal cookstoves have an important role in
residential cooking (including other small-scale cooking in restaurants and institutions). The acceptable energy sources for urban cooking are charcoal, LPG, kerosene, alcohol, and electricity. (Solar cooking is omitted because of housing densities and shadows.) All of them require significant “conversion” from their natural sources, and are deemed to be sufficiently clean energy, meaning a “lack of bothersome smoke” or very low emissions of particulate matter (PM).
Charcoal competes well against those other high-order heat sources because it is easily and relatively inexpensively made from wood and other dry biomass by unskilled labor. But charcoal has two major drawbacks: A) very high levels of carbon monoxide (CO) emission; and B) the destruction of local vegetation from which the charcoal is made. Therefore, it is important to examine viable alternatives such as modern cookstoves that efficiently combust raw dry biomass such as wood which yields CO and PM emissions (“smoke”) even lower than those of charcoal stoves. If these new stoves are successful, task-appropriate, and sustainable for urban cooking, they will also significantly reduce the problems of deforestation and greenhouse gases while providing urban residents with economical and convenient fuel alternatives.