Solar electric cooking in Africa in 2020. A synthesis of the possibilities

Solar electric cooking in Africa in 2020. A synthesis of the possibilities


The proposition of Solar Electric Cooking (SEC or PV-eCook) is that by 2020 the cost of using solar photovoltaic panels to charge a battery, and then using the battery for cooking as and when required, will be comparable to the monthly cost of cooking with charcoal and wood in most developing countries. This paper summarises the findings of three papers exploring particular elements of the proposition – an economic model on the costings, the lifetime of batteries, and the socio-cultural drivers and barriers relating to the uptake of such a proposition.

The proposition sits at the intersect of two major global challenges; the use of biomass for cooking which is harmful to the household and to the environment, and the challenge to extend modern energy access to all peoples (Sustainable Development Goal 7 - SDG7).

This paper starts by referring to both the Improved Cookstove literature that has recently acknowledged that “The “business-as-usual” scenario for the sector is encouraging but will fall far short of potential.” (ESMAP and GACC 2015). The modern energy community calls for a similar “new and transformative strategy” (World Bank 2015). The paper suggests that the proposition could significantly contribute to a new approach in both sectors and in particular to SDG7.

It goes on to describe the commissioning of three papers of which this is a synthesis of findings. In the first paper (Leach and Oduro 2015) the economics of the proposition are modelled. Using existing evidence on the way households cook in Africa, the model sets up two scenarios (‘low cook’ and ‘high cook’) which represent the range of energy consumption found in most households of 4 people. The model is based on evidence from the literature of the range of current costs for components, and most importantly the range of predicted costs. The model shows that the majority of upfront costs are invested in the battery for the system, and a second paper was specifically commissioned on the technical capabilities of current (and near future) batteries.

The second paper (Slade 2015) confirms that LiFePO4 batteries currently on the market are thought to be viable for the proposition. However, the paper draws attention to the absence of independent data on battery performance in high temperature and high discharge conditions. Slade 2015 notes that electric car manufacturers have had challenges from car owners living in the hotter parts of the USA, and are addressing the loss of performance at higher temperatures. The paper concludes that “the research question posed is ahead of the capability of current common lithium ion battery types to deliver long term, durable performance at high (tropical) temperatures, but arguably not by much in this rapidly advancing field.”

The third paper in the series (Brown and Sumanik-Leary 2015) addressed the socio cultural barriers and drivers to the proposition. Households rarely choose their livelihood strategies based on cost alone. As the ICS literature states “low levels of consumer awareness; behaviour change obstacles to the reduced use of traditional stoves after the adoption of new solutions; and limited consumer access to appropriately designed and durable products.” (ESMAP 2015) all slow the uptake of improved stoves. How then would these factors affect a transformative shift in behaviour to PV-eCook? Brown and Sumanik-Leary explore the uptake of cooking with electricity in South Africa, the transition to LPG in some countries, the uptake of Improved Cookstoves and the uptake of solar home lighting systems to document lessons from each of these.

After considering all three papers the findings are discussed and this synthesis paper concludes with a call for further research.

This report has been produced for Evidence on Demand with the assistance of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) contracted through the Climate, Environment, Infrastructure and Livelihoods Professional Evidence and Applied Knowledge Services (CEIL PEAKS) programme, jointly managed by DAI (which incorporates HTSPE Limited) and IMC Worldwide Limited.


Batchelor, S. Solar electric cooking in Africa in 2020. A synthesis of the possibilities. Evidence on Demand, UK (2015) v + 44 pp. [DOI: 10.12774/eod_cr.december2015.batchelors]

Solar electric cooking in Africa in 2020. A synthesis of the possibilities

Published 1 January 2015