CEE team wins $1.5M grant to improve sustainability of cookstove efforts

5/28/2014 11:06:00 AM

Around the world, billions of people cook their daily meals in biomass-burning cookstoves, a traditional practice that unfortunately produces a substantial amount of air pollution along with the family dinner. Researchers at Illinois are part of a new, $9 million funding initiative, announced today by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with the goal of measuring and communicating the benefits of adopting cleaner cooking, heating and lighting practices.

Traditional cookstoves are a major source of black carbon, an air pollutant that not only has serious human health impacts, but also affects climate, including increased temperatures, accelerated ice and snow melt and changes in the pattern and intensity of precipitation. The World Health Organization estimates that more than four million premature deaths result every year from cookstove smoke. To address this, the EPA has awarded grants to researchers at six universities across the country who will explore cleaner technologies and fuels for cooking, lighting and heating homes.

At Illinois, Associate Professor Tami Bond will lead a $1.5 million, three-year project to investigate how local resources affect community acceptance of heating stove interventions and how measurements will help improve understanding of air quality and climatic benefits of cookstove interventions in Alaska, Nepal, Mongolia and China. As policymakers and nonprofit organizations work to develop and distribute more efficient, less polluting cookstoves, Bond’s project is aimed at increasing the sustainability and effectiveness of these initiatives by exploring how people in various parts of the world actually use energy. The team will develop a global, resource-driven map of current emissions and plausible interventions for all residential uses of solid fuel; improve understanding of emissions attributable to space heating by adding measurements to four residential-energy projects in Alaska, Nepal, Mongolia and China; incubate a Regional Testing and Knowledge Center and demonstrate successive improvement in interventions; and model how current emissions and plausible interventions affect the atmosphere.

“The household is just as complex as any other system that we work to protect,” Bond said. “We can't propose changes to that system until we understand what affects it. One fundamental question that we hope to address is what people use energy for. A kitchen is more than just a cooking pot.”

In addition to the Illinois grant, the following grants were awarded to other universities:

  • $1,495,454 to University of California, Berkeley, where researchers will explore the relationship between household and village-scale pollution to understand the effectiveness of cookstove interventions.
  • $1,500,000 to University of Colorado Boulder, where researchers are using small, inexpensive sensors to better monitor human exposure to residential burning pollution. They will also collect data through health assessments and outdoor air quality measurements in Ghana.
  • $1,500,000 to Colorado State University, where researchers will use cookstove interventions in China, India, Kenya and Honduras to explore the emissions, chemistry and movement of indoor cookstove smoke, as well as conduct health assessments and model exposures to improve understanding of climatic impacts of stove interventions.
  • $1,489,388 to University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, where researchers will measure changes in air quality and health outcomes from cleaner cooking and heating technologies and will conduct modeling to assess regional weather, air quality impacts, human exposure and health impacts of a rural cookstove intervention in China.
  • $1,499,985 to Yale University, New Haven, where researchers will use socioeconomic analyses, emissions and pollution measurements, and global climate modeling to investigate the impacts of cookstove interventions in India.

Today’s announcement was made by Administrator Gina McCarthy at the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves reception, an initiative led by the United Nations Foundation. As a founding member of the Alliance, the EPA plays an important role in the organization’s activities. The EPA is a leader in cleaner cookstove research, helping to support the development of international cookstove standards, conducting research on emissions and performance of cleaner cookstoves and improving knowledge of the health effects from exposure to cookstove emissions. The grants have been funded through its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program. The Alliance is a public-private partnership that seeks to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women and protect the environment by creating a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions. Its goal is to facilitate 100 million homes adopting clean cooking solutions by 2020.

“Health and environmental impacts of air pollution and climate expand beyond the borders of any one country,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “This research funding seeks to provide new tools to reduce health risks for the nearly three billion people around the world who are exposed to household air pollution from crude stoves.” 

More information on the EPA grants and the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is available online.


Top: cookstove in use. Photo by Cheryl Weyant