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The effect of solar ovens on fuel use, emissions and health: results from a randomised controlled trial


  • Theresa Beltramo
  • David I. Levine


Inefficient cookstoves contribute to deforestation and global climate change, require substantial time (usually of women and girls) collecting wood or money for fuel and lead to just under two million deaths a year. We examined the effect of solar ovens on fuel use, time spent collecting wood, carbon monoxide exposure, and respiratory illness symptoms. A phased randomised controlled trial was run among women interested in purchasing a solar oven in rural Senegal. Of the envisioned 1000 households, 465 treatments and 325 controls took part in the baseline survey. Households randomly allocated to the control group received their stoves 6 months after treatments. Eighty per cent of our respondents typically cook for more people than the capacity of the solar oven and thus even cooks using the solar oven continue using their traditional stove. In the sixth month of owning the stove, treatments used their solar oven 19 per cent of days measured and did not have statistically significantly lower fuel consumption, time spent collecting fuel or time spent next to the cook fire. However, treatments cooking for 7-12 persons did lower their wood consumption for cooking by 14 per cent ( P > .01). There is no evidence solar ovens reduced exposure to carbon monoxide or self-reported respiratory symptoms such as coughs and sore throats. This evaluation was a policy success because its results halted the proposed nationwide rollout of the solar oven, thus avoiding mass distribution of a stove which cannot reduce indoor air pollution or generate a sizeable decrease in fuel use. The results from this randomised controlled trial show that the HotPot is a poor product choice for the population as a one-pot stove cannot replace the three-stone fire for the lunch meal due to complex cooking patterns with multiple stoves, cooks and burners. A key result from our programme is stove designers - both solar and other improved biomass cookstoves - should reassess the product design to produce stoves that are affordable, durable, locally appropriate, consistent with current cooking practices (i.e., containing two burners) and large enough to accommodate multi-generational and/or polygamous households with limited incomes and no electricity.

Suggested Citation

  • Theresa Beltramo & David I. Levine, 2013. "The effect of solar ovens on fuel use, emissions and health: results from a randomised controlled trial," Journal of Development Effectiveness, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(2), pages 178-207, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jdevef:v:5:y:2013:i:2:p:178-207
    DOI: 10.1080/19439342.2013.775177

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Shawn Cole & Xavier Gine & Jeremy Tobacman & Petia Topalova & Robert Townsend & James Vickery, 2013. "Barriers to Household Risk Management: Evidence from India," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 104-135, January.
    2. Blackden, Mark & Wodon, Quentin, 2006. "Gender, Time Use, and Poverty: Introduction," MPRA Paper 11080, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Alessandro Tarozzi & Aprajit Mahajan & Brian Blackburn & Dan Kopf & Lakshmi Krishnan & Joanne Yoong, 2014. "Micro-loans, Insecticide-Treated Bednets, and Malaria: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial in Orissa, India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(7), pages 1909-1941, July.
    4. C. Mark Blackden & Quentin Wodon, 2006. "Gender, Time Use, and Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 7214.
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    Cited by:

    1. Rema Hanna & Esther Duflo & Michael Greenstone, 2016. "Up in Smoke: The Influence of Household Behavior on the Long-Run Impact of Improved Cooking Stoves," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 8(1), pages 80-114, February.
    2. Kudo, Yuya & Shonchoy, Abu S. & Takahashi, Kazushi, 2017. "Short-term impacts of solar lanterns on child health : experimental evidence from Bangladesh," IDE Discussion Papers 646, Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization(JETRO).
    3. Beyene,Abebe D. & Bluffstone,Randall & Gebreegziabher,Zenebe & Martinsson,Peter & Mekonnen,Alemu & Vieider,Ferdinand, 2015. "The improved biomass stove saves wood, but how often do people use it ? evidence from a randomized treatment trial in Ethiopia," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7297, The World Bank.
    4. Jacopo Bonan & Stefano Pareglio & Massimo Tavoni, 2014. "Access to Modern Energy: a Review of Impact Evaluations," Working Papers 2014.96, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    5. Grant Miller & A. Mushfiq Mobarak, 2013. "Gender Differences in Preferences, Intra-Household Externalities, and Low Demand for Improved Cookstoves," NBER Working Papers 18964, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Bauer, Gordon, 2016. "Evaluation of usage and fuel savings of solar ovens in Nicaragua," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 250-257.

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