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Biogas for domestic cooking - new IRENA technology brief

For households without access to grid-based electricity or gas for cooking, traditional cookstoves (TCS) are typically fuelled by solid fuels generating considerable indoor air pollution. Biogas cookstoves significantly alleviate such health and environmental problems. A new technology brief from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) provides technical background information, analyses market potential and barriers, and offers insights for policymakers on biogas for domestic cooking.

A dual-fuel portable oven developed in Kenya that can run on biogas and/or charcoal.

According to the World Bioenergy Association (WBA), over 3 billion people worldwide currently use traditional cookstoves (TCS) fuelled by solid fuels such as fuelwood, charcoal or dried manure. These generate considerable indoor air pollution causing serious health and environmental problems. A TCS consists of a pot being heated above an open fire with the pot placed either on three stones arranged in a triangle shape, three-stone cookstove or on a foundation of bricks, clay and/or ceramic.

Cookstoves fuelled with biogas provide complete combustion, significantly alleviating health and environmental problems. In many developing countries, biogas cooking can also improve the livelihoods of rural households, as by-products of biogas production such as slurry and fertiliser boost agricultural productivity. Modern biogas use, meanwhile, reduces the amount of time spent by women and children collecting wood.

Despite these clear advantages, the potential of domestic biogas has not been fully exploited. A new technology brief, “Biogas for Domestic Cooking” from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) provides technical background information, analyses market potential and barriers, and offers insights for policymakers on biogas for domestic cooking.

Developing bottled biogas distribution in Kenya.

Constraints highlighted in the brief include limited awareness about biogas applications; the initial cost of installation; lack of skilled labour for installation and operation; inadequate and intermittent government support; feedstock availability; the need for consistent maintenance; behavioural and social acceptance; and competition from fossil-based alternatives.

However, pre-fabricated biogas units constructed of fibre, plastic or lightweight bags can be cheaper to install, while investments in the biogas value chain, from installation to maintenance, can reduce costs further.

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