Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Starting a clean cooking revolution - Impressions from the Indian Clean Cookstove Forum 2013

The India Clean Cookstove Forum 2013, organised by IGEN-RE on 25/26 November, 2013, was the first event on cooking energy of this dimension in India. The presence of high ranking keynote speakers, such as the minister of New and Renewable Energy, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, and the participation of over 150 representatives of NGOs, entrepreneurs, research and finance organizations, as well as government agencies demonstrates the high importance attributed to clean cookstoves – a topic that has been around in India for over 30 years.

Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Minister of New and Renewable Energy,
calling for new action and cooperation in the clean cookstove secto
“The innovation of chulhas that was introduced in the 1980s didn’t work. The mission failed. What we need is a chulha that is effective, cheap and which people will be able to use. What we need are industrialists who produce this. Not because they are in love with our country and its people but to make money”. Referring to the National Programme for Improved Cookstoves, Farooq Abdullah, called attention to the needs of millions of Indian households suffering from indoor air pollution caused by the usage of traditional cookstoves, or so-called chulhas, and the crucial role attributed to the private sector to solve this problem. In order for the sector to live up to these expectations, adequate policy frameworks and market conditions have to be established requiring action and involvement of policy makers, donors, private enterprises, and the financing sector. The need for clean cookstoves is real and the technology to solve these problems is available; however, as Michael Blunck, IGEN-RE project leader, pointed out, the last mile to bridge the gap and reach consumers remains the sector’s largest bottleneck. To overcome this last mile, the forum aimed at bringing key players of the sector together in order to spur new dialogue and create a network for knowledge exchange and cooperation.

C. Liedtke, technical expert of IGEN-RE, summarising key
challenges and potential solutions for the supply of clean
The event was preceded by a Practitioner Workshop where about 30 representatives from stove manufacturers and distributors used the opportunity to actively engage in discussions organised in breakout groups and jointly work out current challenges faced by the sector with regards to demand, supply and the market ecosystem. The pinpointed core issues identified served as valuable input for the panel discussions on the following day.

Representatives of manufacturers, NGOs, finance,
policies, and logistics discussed 
how the demand
for clean cookstoves
could be created, their supply
and the market ecosystem developed

Panellists called for a more holistic and solution-based approach as opposed to a technology-driven one. It was pointed out that “the only thing that can be generalized about India is that nothing can be generalized: there are as many cooking solutions as there are cooking culture” (Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, journalist), and therefore the main focus has to move away from clean biomass cookstoves to tackling the cooking sector as a whole: users, and the food they cook have to stand in the centre of the discussion. Also the engagement of a broader and more interdisciplinary base was called for since the subject touches upon many fields, such as health, energy and gender. The general lack of awareness and demand for improved cookstoves was repeatedly named as a core challenge for reaching economies of scale and the cause for fragmented markets.“Potential end-users have to be able to see: what’s in it for me?” says Sujatha Srinivasan, Director of Servals Automation, highlighting the point of a missing value proposition for users.Mass awareness and marketing campaigns, improved market data on consumer preferences as well as direct support in the form of end-user financing, risk guarantees for banks and MFIs, as well as seed capital, soft loans and a more favourable tax structure for entrepreneurs, rather than grant and subsidy based approaches were called for.

Michael Blunck, project leader of IGEN-RE, presents Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Minister of New
and Renewable Energy, and Mr. Alok Srivastava, Joint Secretary of the Government of India,
with the CDM Programme of Activities that has been successfully registered. The Programme
will reduce the cost of stoves for end users through the sale of carbon credits.
The continuing cooperation between GIZ and MNRE and IGEN-RE will make an effort to integrate these inputs, such as providing risk guarantees to financial institutions, into their activity portfolio. Since 2012, the cookstove initiative under IGEN-RE has followed a holistic approach engaging in activities ranging from creating new financing opportunities through Carbon Finance to designing a marketing toolkit for cookstove entrepreneurs, and undertaking field studies to better understand user preferences and market conditions.
To learn more about the issues discussed at the event and to follow the next steps, please visit www. Energypedia.info.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Adding new value to traditional ways of production - Innovative business models for watermills in Uttarakhand

Traditional watermill in Baliya, Uttarakand
Using the power of water and converting it into mechanical energy has a long tradition in Uttarakand. However, owners of traditional watermills, so-called gharats, are recently facing increased competition from diesel and electric mills located directly at the markets where they grind wheat to flour. Although many nutrients get lost in the accelerated milling process of diesel and electric mills, the shortened processing time and convenient location allows them to sell their products at a higher price than traditional mills.

In cooperation with the Uttarakhand Renewable Energy Development Agency (UREDA), IGEN-RE follows a two-pronged approach to improve the livelihoods of mill owners: firstly, IGEN-RE supports the process of upgrading traditional mill technologies to increase their efficiency level and output. Secondly, the project develops models to set up additional sustainable livelihood activities based on the energy generated.

Water mill owners in Baliya, a small village near Almora all share concerns for their businesses in the near and long-term future. “It is the older people that come here. They like our flour and appreciate its superior quality” the mill owners say. “They are loyal customers who don’t mind travelling the extra distance down the river. But what will happen once they are gone?”

Khemsingh next to his flour scales
Further down the mountains, Khemsingh, the head of a 15 person household and owner of a watermill located along a water channel close to Dehradun faces a different situation. He explains: “there is no competition from electrical or diesel powered mills here, and there are only a total of three water driven mills in this area, but the demand for wheat grinding is higher than these mills can cope with”. Kamla, who has been operating her family’s watermill on her own since her husband died 29 years ago, confirms this statement. For 12 hours she grinds up to 500kg of wheat every day – when the demand is too high or if she needs the additional income, she also works throughout the night. For each kilogram of ground wheat, she earns 1 Rupee amounting to a daily wage of 400 to 500Rs. “With a more efficient mill, I could shorten my workdays and maybe also increase my income”.


Kamla at her work place
A Self Help Group (SHG) of 15 members, with support from the local NGO IDS, has developed a promising business idea based on the assumption that the improved mills will shorten processing time and increase milling efficiency. The concept foresees to carry out bulk purchases from mills, package the flour, and sell it off to wholesalers who would then distribute and market the product in local markets. By emphasising the product’s premium quality due to the traditional milling process, they can achieve a higher market price. Currently, individual farmers deliver their wheat to the mills and pick it up again once it is processed paying either in cash or flour. The new set-up would enable mill owners to increase their daily throughput allowing them to raise their turnover and revenues whilst decreasing transaction costs and establish long-term business contracts. SHG members on the other hand would get the opportunity to increase and diversify their portfolio of livelihood generating activities. So far, the SHG has been successfully engaged in the set up of dairy farming businesses, sewing classes, intra group lending schemes as well as insurance provisions to members and non-members.

One obstacle for the venture is a general lack of market data, e.g. it is unclear whether a premium price for traditional watermill products can be achieved and how much output the improved mill as well as the SHG are able to deliver. Another difficulty that has yet to be overcome is the need for a certification process that guarantees the superior quality of products from watermills in a transparent manner to wholesalers and end consumers. In cooperation with local and regional stakeholders IGEN-RE is working to overcome these barriers and to identify additional potential uses of the energy generated by the mills which, for example, could be utilized as a source of independent and decentralized electricity provision.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Can the Indian corporate sector be the solution to the challenge of rural energy access?

How could partnerships between large corporates and small social enterprises in rural areas better address the issue of energy access? What are the experiences so far?  What could be the role of government and donor agencies to foster these types of partnerships?     

Participants at the consultative workshop in Mumbai 
In order to explore these questions, New Ventures India, on behalf of IGEN-RE, organized two stakeholder workshops on 2 August and 23 August in New Delhi and Mumbai respectively. The workshops brought together over 55 representatives from the corporate sector, social entrepreneurs, and financial institutions.  “It was a good opportunity to meet and learn initiatives of other organizations in the area of clean technology for rural homes.” said Mr. Ravi Shankar, Executive Vice President, Marketing & Rural Business, Fullerton India after the Mumbai workshop.
At the end of the two consultations, it is clear that there are three emerging areas where GIZ can strengthen the involvement of the corporate sector in the energy access space:
  • Developing an online platform to facilitate exchange between relevant social entrepreneurs and corporates to jointly design and implement projects on energy access.
  • Developing a repository of the different needs of rural energy enterprises, which can then be used to explore the potential linkages with suitable corporates.
  • Explore innovative mechanisms for utilizing corporate social responsibility funds to improve the energy access space.   
Participants at the  consultative workshop in New Delhi 
As a follow up, GIZ will facilitate matchmaking for new partnerships by publishing the profiles of the participating companies along with the contact details of key personnel. GIZ and MNRE would also explore opportunities to support some of the concrete cooperation ideas such as setting up a pilot of 50 solar water pumps in Odisha.

For further information please refer to the following website: http://www.nvindia.biz/resources-corporatepartnerships.html

Friday, 4 October 2013

Registered! A New Funding Source for Cleaner Cooking

Projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions can be registered under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the United Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to gain additional funding from the international carbon market.

Improved cookstoves reduce the amount of wood required for cooking. This wood to a large extent is considered non-renewable as it is collected from forests that are not replanted. Projects promoting improved stoves  therefore also reduce greenhouse gas emissions and can be registered as a CDM project.

With support from IGEN-RE, the Indian Ministry of New an Renewable Energy (MNRE) has just registered a so-called Programme of Activities (PoA) under the CDM to promote clean cooking stoves all over the country. This PoA will serve as an umbrella structure for interested project implementers such as private companies, NGOs or government institutions to develop and fund new stove projects.

It took about 2 years to reach this point; the more satisfied we are with the successful registration in the last days. We are looking forward to the first projects to benefit from this new funding facility.

For more information on the India cookstove PoA, please refer to the UNFCCC website.
For more general information on carbon finance for improved stoves, pleaser have a look at  the Carbon Finance Website of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Synergy for Energy - A Workshop on Energy Access in Patna, Bihar

by Santosh Singh
"There is no silver bullet to address the energy needs. A variety of solutions are needed and there is no need for an either/or comparison across different solutions.”
By making the above statement at the UN Foundation's workshop ”Advancing Energy Access in South Asia”, Ms. Leena Srivastava (Director, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Govt. of India) aptly summarized the status of energy access efforts.

The UN Foundation, along with its several partners, organized a workshop on Advancing Energy Access in South Asia in Patna (Bihar). The workshop, held during 10-12 September, was well attended by practitioners, investors, government agencies, and multilateral and bilateral donors. The entrepreneurs shared their successes, challenges and next steps that they are working on for providing clean energy solutions. Financial institutions, government bodies and donors informed the audience about different ways through which they are helping entrepreneurs.

Mr. Satish Babu sharing his insight on adoption of technology.
 Picture Credits - Energy Access Practitioners Network 

The followings are the main lessons from the workshop:

1. The sector is in an early stage. Mr. Harish Hande (Co-founder SELCO) drew an analogy between a baby learning to walk and the sustainable energy access sector. He warned against impatience. He said the sector would become profitable gradually. Most of the entrepreneurs are working on finding a profitable way for providing clean energy in rural India. It is a tough task and it will take time.

2. All stakeholders need to work together. The entrepreneurs and others, who are working in this sector, need to work together and share their experiences. There are many success stories of individual entrepreneurs overcoming challenges. For example, SELCO (a pioneer in Solar Home Systems) figured how to work with bankers to get easy loans for buyers of solar home systems. ONergy (an enterprise working in West Bengal) solved the problem of providing repair services for its product in remote areas by creating small renewable energy centers. Greenlight Planet worked with villagers and trained them to become resellers of renewable energy products. All of these successes need to be shared so that other entrepreneurs can learn from them.

3. The sector needs more active support from financial institutions. Almost all entrepreneurs present in the workshop underlined the challenge of arranging finance for their ventures. They also felt that most of the buyers of renewable energy products require cheap and easy loans for their purchase. The existing financial institutions are not very forthcoming to provide these loans. On the other hand, the bankers mentioned many challenges they have to deal with in the rural energy sector, such as a perceived high risk and lack of information about the available products. However, entrepreneurs believe that many of the challenges can be overcome if financial institutions work more closely with the existing entrepreneurs.

The IGEN-RE team shared experiences from its different activities. Mr. Hari Natarajan presented learnings from GIZ's experience with micro-grid work in UP and West Bengal (you can download the presentation here).  

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

How does a solar water pump look like, sir?

by Nilanjan Ghose [1]

“How does a solar water pump look like, sir? How long will it take to provide water to one hector of land? Will the pump work in winter? ” These were some of the questions thrown at us during an interactive session with local farmers in the Allauli village of Khagaria district of Bihar. It took us almost seven and half-hours to reach the village from Patna because of the extremely poor road conditions and heavy rainfall.  The farmers were waiting for us at the local panchayat bhavan. The enthusiasm was evident as there were around 25 farmers waiting for us for more than two hours, some of them travelling as far as 20 kilometers. We were at the village to discuss the potentials for irrigating agricultural land through solar water pumps.
The increasing price of diesel is making it difficult for the farmers to properly irrigate their agricultural land using diesel pumps. As farmers are trying to use less water to save costs on diesel, yields and therewith potential incomes are declining. Some farmers even leave a portion of their land completely unutilized over a substantial period of the year. The farmers are searching for affordable alternatives to irrigate their agricultural lands. Their interest was evident from the questions they asked during the interactive session. Their questions were relating to the benefits and costs of the technology, sources of financing, as well as after sales services.
Farmers during the interactive session
Increasing fossil fuel prices and decreasing prices for solar modules in the global market, create an opportune moment for applying solar water pumps. A study[2] conducted by GIZ highlights that Bihar is one of the few states, which have the perfect conditions for using solar water pumps for irrigation. The most crucial barriers to a higher uptake of solar pumps still include the high upfront cost of the technology, a lack of awareness about the potential of solar pumping among farmers and banks, as well as the lack of enterprise networks to supply pumps and provide service  all over the state.
The field visit provided us with a lot of food for thought. It became clear that most farmers have little idea of how a solar water pump works and what benefits it could bring. Based on our field visit and interactions with farmers, it was evident that there is an urgent need for generating awareness about the technology amongst the farmers. Understanding the technology is the initial step to generate interest and demand for the product. A flexible financial product tuned to the scale of the expenditures currently incurred by farmers for purchasing diesel would make solar water pumps much more affordable. IGEN-RE has therefore initiated discussions with a diverse group of stakeholders such as farmers groups, local NGOs, private enterprises, rural banks and government officials to develop awareness and financing schemes for solar water pumps in Bihar.   More information will be available on the IGEN-RE Blog soon.
[1] This blog is prepared with inputs from Mr.Santosh Kumar Singh who was also a part of the field visit.
[2] Link to the study conducted by GIZ be provided soon.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Can a stove cook up a nice story for Kalavati Devi?

                                                                         by Meenakshi Kapoor & Christian Liedtke

Kalavati Devi is 46 years old. She lives with her husband, two sons and a daughter in Village Chachrait of Pitthoragarh district in Kumaon region of Uttarakhand in India. One of her sons and the daughter go to a government school in the area. Her elder son works as a daily wage labourer. Her husband, Kesar Singh sings in religious ceremonies and temples on festivals and special occasions. He gets small sums of money as token of appreciation. Besides, the family owns a small patch of land, the produce from which is largely consumed by the family itself. Summing up all this, the family income of the household is Rs. 3000 a month.

Kalavati Devi lives in a small house of two rooms and a separate kitchen cum pantry (for storing grains and other eatables for the family). She cooks food in a traditional manner on the fire and a tripod stand burning wood. She cooks three meals a day and spends an average of one hour in cooking one meal.

Kalavati Devi cooking in her kitchen

Of late, she has been facing respiratory problems and difficulty in breathing. On consulting the doctor in the local Government Hospital, she found out that it was because of the smoke created by the burning of wood in the stove.  Although the consultation is free, she spends an average of Rs. 100 a month on her medicines and traveling to the hospital (There is no road connectivity to the village and the hospital is accessible only on foot or by means of animal led carts).  She says, “I educate one of my children with Rs. 120 a month and spending almost the same amount on myself pinches me.” 

Although, she always found the smoke disturbing, she never considered it as a major problem till she consulted the doctor.  In her words: “I used to get a burning sensation in my eyes and used to cough because of the smoke but I never took it seriously.  Besides, I cannot do anything about it. If I am cooking with firewood, smoke will be there.” It seems that she has accepted smoke as an unavoidable condition associated with cooking. 

She believes that food can be cooked without smoke only on kerosene or a LPG stove. When asked about the reason for not using one, she replied: “We cannot afford LPG or kerosene as they are very costly, whereas firewood is free. My husband collects it from the forest. It is lesser of a burden for my husband to spend Rs. 100 a month for my medical treatment as compared to the cost of using kerosene or LPG for cooking.”  Hence, she feels that with her limited resources she has no way of escaping the smoke associated with cooking. “I will have to live with the cooking smoke. With our monthly income, I do not see a way out. I hope my son earns better in future and can afford LPG.”

On asking about improved cookstove, she says: “What is an improved cookstove? I have never heard of it. Will the food cook faster on it?” 

There are similar stories to be heard from hundreds of households located in small hamlets and villages in the state of Uttarakhand in India. Their proximal location to the forests and free availability of firewood makes it a preferred fuel over LPG and kerosene. In such a scenario, use of improved cookstoves can prove extremely beneficial. 

Improved coosktoves are based on technologies that burn biomass fuels efficiently and in a clean manner. They reduce the consumption of fuels considerably and thereby reduce the time spent on collection of these fuels and associated labour. They also emit very little smoke as compared to the traditional stoves or open fire and, therefore, have positive health impacts.
GIZ, under the IGEN-RE project, is supporting the market development for improved cookstoves in
Uttarakhand, Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh in India. It is expected that the use of improved cookstoves will help in reducing the instances of smoke related health hazards amongst women. Coupled with the reduction of cooking time and fuel requirement, improved cookstoves will make the lives of Kalavati Devi and many such women more convenient.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Welcome to the IGEN-RE Blog!

The GIZ IGEN-RE Team (from left to right):
Hari Natarajan, Onkar Nath, Christian Liedtke, Meenakshi Kapoor,
Michael Blunck, Santosh Singh, Nilanjan Ghose
A warm welcome from the GIZ IGEN-RE team!

We will use this space to inform you about the latest news and developments from our project activities in the rural energy sector in India. In addition to the information provided on our new website at www.igen-re.in, our blog will also provide you with a more detailed insight into how energy access can make a difference for the people in rural areas.

We appreciate your comments and feedback either directly by commenting in the blog or by email to igen-re[at]giz.de.