Promoting adoption and use of cleaner-burning cookstoves: TRAction project

Improved cookstoves (ICS) have the potential to deliver the triple dividends of household health and time savings, local environmental quality improvements, and reduced impacts on climate. However, despite clear scientific evidence on the potential efficacy of these innovations, these technologies have run into important translation challenges that have impeded their widespread diffusion and dissemination. Our original TRAction project – Designing and Evaluating Behavior Change Interventions to Improve the Adoption and Use of Improved Cookstoves – was developed in response to a refrain of calls for applied research to develop a more refined understanding of the nature of these challenges.

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cookstoveIMG_1057-1024x682-squareMain research collaborators:

  • Jessica Lewis; Subhrendu Pattanayak; Jie-Sheng Tan Soo (Duke)
  • Nina Brooks (NORC)
  • Laura Morrison (RTI International)
  • Abhishek Kar; Omkar Patange; Ibrahim Rehman (TERI)
  • Vasundhara Bhojvaid (Delhi School of Economics)
  • Veerabhadran Ramanathan (UCSD)
  • Nithya Ramanathan (Nexleaf)

Related Publications:

Pattanayak, S.K.; M. Jeuland, J.J. Lewis, F. Usmani, et al. (2019) “Experimental Evidence on Promotion of Electric and Improved Biomass Cookstoves.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1808827166.

Abstract: Improved cookstoves (ICS) can deliver “triple wins” by improving household health, local environments, and global climate. Yet their potential is in doubt because of low and slow diffusion, likely because of constraints imposed by differences in culture, geography, institutions, and missing markets. We offer insights about this challenge based on a multiyear, multiphase study with nearly 1,000 households in the Indian Himalayas. In phase I, we combined desk reviews, simulations, and focus groups to diagnose barriers to ICS adoption. In phase II, we implemented a set of pilots to simulate a mature market and designed an intervention that upgraded the supply chain (combining marketing and home delivery), provided rebates and financing to lower income and liquidity constraints, and allowed households a choice among ICS. In phase III, we used findings from these pilots to implement a field experiment to rigorously test whether this combination of upgraded supply and demand promotion stimulates adoption. The experiment showed that, compared with zero purchase in control villages, over half of intervention households bought an ICS, although demand was highly price-sensitive. Demand was at least twice as high for electric stoves relative to biomass ICS. Even among households that received a negligible price discount, the upgraded supply chain alone induced a 28 percentage-point increase in ICS ownership. Although the bundled intervention is resource-intensive, the full costs are lower than the social benefits of ICS promotion. Our findings suggest that market analysis, robust supply chains, and price discounts are critical for ICS diffusion.

Jeuland, M.; J.S. Tan-Soo; S.K. Pattanayak (2020). Preferences and the effectiveness of behavior-change interventions: Evidence from adoption of improved cookstoves in India. Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists 7(2), 305-343.

Abstract: Preference heterogeneity can influence behavior in economically significant ways, thereby influencing the effectiveness of environmental policies or interventions. We test this hypothesis in the context of efficient cooking technology in India. We use stated preference methods to first characterize household tastes for various features of a more efficient cooking technology. We then relate these typically unobserved preferences to households’ adoption decisions during an experiment that allowed them to choose between two alternatives with different features. Stated preferences help predict actual adoption: households initially classified as uninterested are less likely to purchase and use any new technology, while relative distaste for pollution is linked to selection of a cleaner technology. Because of this influence on adoption behaviors, preference heterogeneity has important implications for how environmental policies can impact various health and development outcomes.

Brooks, N.; V. Bhojvaid; M. Jeuland; J. Lewis; O. Patange; S. Pattanayak (2016). How much do alternative cookstoves reduce biomass fuel use? Evidence from North IndiaResource and Energy Economics43, 153-171..

Abstract:Despite widespread global efforts to promote clean cookstoves to achieve improvements in air and forest quality, and to reduce global climate change, surprisingly little is known about the degree to which these actually reduce biomass fuel consumption in real-world settings. Using data from in-house weighing of fuel conducted in rural India, we examine the impact of cleaner cookstoves – most of which are LPG stoves – on three key outcomes related to solid fuel use. Our results suggest that using a clean cookstove is associated with daily reductions of about 4.5 kg of biomass fuel, 160 fewer minutes cooking on traditional stoves, and 105 fewer minutes collecting biomass fuels. These findings of substantial savings are robust to the use of estimators with varying levels of control for selection, and to alternative data obtained from household self-reports. Our results support the idea that efforts to promote clean stoves among poor rural households can reduce solid fuel use and cooking time, and that rebound effects toward greater amounts of cooking on multiple stoves are not sufficient to eliminate these gains. We also find, however, that households who have greater wealth, fewer members, are in less marginalized groups, and practice other health-averting behaviors, are more likely to use these cleaner stoves, which suggests that socio-economic status plays an important role in determining who benefits from such technologies. Future efforts to capture social benefits must therefore consider how to promote the use of alternative technologies by poor households, given that these households are least likely to own clean stoves.

Lewis, J.; V. Bhojvaid; N. Brooks; I. Das; M. Jeuland; O. Patange, S.K. Pattanayak (2015). Piloting improved cookstoves in IndiaJournal of health communication20(sup1), 28-42.

Abstract: Despite the potential of improved cookstoves to reduce the adverse environmental and health impacts of solid fuel use, their adoption and use remains low. Social marketing—with its focus on the marketing mix of promotion, product, price, and place—offers a useful way to understand household behaviors and design campaigns to change biomass fuel use. We report on a series of pilots across 3 Indian states that use different combinations of the marketing mix. We find sales varying from 0% to 60%. Behavior change promotion that combined door-to-door personalized demonstrations with information pamphlets was effective. When given a choice amongst products, households strongly preferred an electric stove over improved biomass-burning options. Among different stove attributes, reduced cooking time was considered most valuable by those adopting a new stove. Households clearly identified price as a significant barrier to adoption, while provision of discounts (e.g., rebates given if households used the stove) or payments in installments were related to higher purchase. Place-based factors such as remoteness and nongovernmental organization operations significantly affected the ability to supply and convince households to buy and use improved cookstoves. Collectively, these pilots point to the importance of continued and extensive testing of messages, pricing models, and different stove types before scale-up. Thus, we caution that a one-size-fits-all approach will not boost improved cookstove adoption.

Jeuland, M.; V Bhojvaid; A Kar; J. Lewis; O. Patange; S. Pattanayak; N Ramanathan; I. Rehman; J. Tan Soo; V. Ramanathan (2015). Preferences for improved cook stoves: Evidence from rural villages in north IndiaEnergy Economics52, 287-298.

Abstract: Because emissions from solid fuel burning in traditional stoves impact global climate change, the regional environment, and household health, there is today real interest in improved cook stoves (ICS). Nonetheless, surprisingly little is known about what households like about these energy products. We report on preferences for biomass-burning ICS attributes in a large sample of 2120 rural households in north India, a global hotspot for biomass fuel use and the damages that such use entails. Households have a strong baseline reliance and preference for traditional stoves, a preference that outweighs the $10 and $5 willingness to pay (WTP) for realistic (33%) reductions in smoke emissions and fuel needs on average, respectively. Preferences for stove attributes are also highly varied, and correlated with a number of household characteristics (e.g. expenditures, gender of household head, patience and risk preferences). These results suggest that households exhibit cautious interest in some aspects of ICS, but that widespread adoption is unlikely because many households appear to prefer traditional stoves over ICS with similar characteristics. The policy community must therefore support a reinvigorated supply chain with complementary infrastructure investments, foster experimentation with products, encourage continued applied research and knowledge generation, and provide appropriate incentives to consumers, if ICS distribution is to be scaled up.

Bhojvaid, V.; M. Jeuland, A. Kar; J. Lewis; S. Pattanayak; N. Ramanathan; V. Ramanathan; I. Rehman (2014). “How do people in rural India perceive improved stoves and clean fuel? Evidence from Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 11(2), 1341-1358.

Abstract: Improved cook stoves (ICS) have been widely touted for their potential to deliver the triple benefits of improved household health and time savings, reduced deforestation and local environmental degradation, and reduced emissions of black carbon, a significant short-term contributor to global climate change. Yet diffusion of ICS technologies among potential users in many low-income settings, including India, remains slow, despite decades of promotion. This paper explores the variation in perceptions of and preferences for ICS in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, as revealed through a series of semi-structured focus groups and interviews from 11 rural villages or hamlets. We find cautious interest in new ICS technologies, and observe that preferences for ICS are positively related to perceptions of health and time savings. Other respondent and community characteristics, e.g., gender, education, prior experience with clean stoves and institutions promoting similar technologies, and social norms as perceived through the actions of neighbours, also appear important. Though they cannot be considered representative, our results suggest that efforts to increase adoption and use of ICS in rural India will likely require a combination of supply-chain improvements and carefully designed social marketing and promotion campaigns, and possibly incentives, to reduce the up-front cost of stoves.