Four billion people lack access to modern cooking energy
Four billion people lack access to modern cooking energy, states a World Bank report. Image credit: ATEC Biodigesters

Four billion people around the world still lack access to clean, efficient, convenient, safe, reliable, and affordable cooking energy, a new World Bank report finds.

While around 1.25 billion are considered in transition with access to improved cooking services, the rest still cook with traditional polluting fuels and technologies with severe impacts on health, gender, economic, environmental, and climate outcomes.

In an effort to gain a better understanding of the barriers to progress, the State of Access to Modern Energy Cooking Services report used a new multidimensional approach to measure access to modern energy for cooking across six factors, examining not only whether it is clean, but also whether it is efficient, convenient, safe, reliable, and affordable.

The report finds that the rate of access to modern sources of energy for cooking stands at only 10% in sub-Saharan Africa, 36% in East Asia, and 56% in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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“Lack of progress in clean cooking is costing the world more than $2.4 trillion each year, driven by adverse impacts on health, climate, and gender equality. Women bear a disproportionate share of this cost in the form of poor health and safety, as well as lost productivity,” said Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice-President for infrastructure. “This toll may increase in the ongoing pandemic as household air pollution, resulting from the use of highly polluting fuels and stoves may make exposed populations more susceptible to COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases.”

Funding commitments for residential clean cooking by development partners and the private sector had recently fallen from $120 million to $32 million. The report estimates that $150 billion is needed annually to reach universal access to modern energy cooking services by 2030.

Of this amount, approximately $39 billion is required in public funding to ensure that modern cooking solutions are affordable for the poorest while $11 billion is needed from the private sector to install downstream infrastructure for the functioning of modern energy cooking markets, such as the distribution network. The remaining $103 billion would come from household purchases of stoves and fuels.

A less ambitious scenario of reaching universal access to improved cooking services by 2030 requires $10 billion per year, including $6 billion from the public sector to fill the affordability gap and the rest by households.

Modern cooking energy services

“The report presents a new, nuanced, understanding of what is meant by access to clean cooking, going beyond efficiency and emissions to fully contextualise the users cooking experience, including safety, affordability and availability. The UK government is supportive of these findings and continues to back the MECS programme to provide more affordable, less polluting, and healthier cooking practices for people around the world,” said Professor Charlotte Watts, chief scientific advisor and director of research and evidence division at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).

As countries and their partners in the public and private sectors work to scale up efforts to reach universal access to modern energy cooking services, the report provides three key recommendations:

  • Creating high-profile coalitions of political leaders to prioritise access to modern energy cooking services in global and national arenas;
  • Formalising cooking energy demand in national energy planning and development strategies, in order to achieve universal accessthat reflects diverse users’ needs, local market conditions, and national comparative advantages on energy resources;
  • Dramatically increasing funding focused on modern energy cooking services that moves from the tens and hundreds of millions to the tens of billions.

The State of Access to Modern Energy Cooking Services report was produced by the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) in collaboration with Loughborough University and the Clean Cooking Alliance. It is a product of the research efforts implemented under the Modern Energy Cooking Services (MECS) Program and presents newly compiled evidence and insights to guide continued sector progress toward achieving SDG Target 7.1 by 2030.