Potential Energy: fueling the cookstoves markets in East Africa

Potential Energy| Darfur & Ethiopia

$1.5 million | Stage 2: Testing at Scale | Global Health | Environment and Global Climate Change | Energy

The problem: Health illnesses and hazards of dependence on wood-burning fires

Each year over 2 million people die from illness related to breathing smoke from cooking fires, and many women are exposed to violence as they travel up to seven hours a day to search for fuel wood to cook for their families. In addition, many women are exposed to violence as they travel up to 7 hours a day, 3-5 days a week in search of usable fuel wood with which to cook their food.

Many models for high-efficiency stoves exist to replace traditional open fire methods, but few have achieved widespread use or commercial sustainability, partially due to consumer behavior and the expense of the products.

The solution: A Sustainable Distribution Model for Improved Cookstoves 

Originally the Darfur Stoves Project, Potential Energy was founded as a volunteer organization in 2005 by Dr. Ashok Gadgil, Faculty Senior Scientist and Director of the Environmental Energy Technologies Division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Dr. Gadgil led a team of Berkeley scientists and engineers in the development of a Berkeley-Darfur stove, aggressively pursuing market-testing and end-user feedback in Darfur. 

Using lessons learned from early work on cookstove adoption in Darfur, Potential Energy is pursuing a market creation strategy in Ethiopia. The organization will grow its distribution and marketing network and develop innovative pricing models and flexible financing options for consumers. With support from Development Innovation Ventures, Potential Energy and partners will assess the group’s impact and the relative effectiveness of the different marketing strategies it pursues using a randomized control trial.

The potential: Cost-effectiveness, impacts, and implications 

Because the Berkeley Darfur Stove requires half as much firewood as traditional cooking methods, users save more than $300 per year in fuel costs, or half the labor time and effort gathering firewood. Over the five-year lifespan of the stove, this savings is approximately $1700 per household.

To learn more:

  • See what the stove looks like
  • Track Potential Energy’s progress on its website
  • Learn the backstory with this video on the Darfur Stoves Project

Last updated: August 01, 2013

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