Solar cooking for everyone
In Norway we are for the moment discussing CO2 reduction in the range of 8 million tonnes. This is 0,05% of what we need to reduce in order to save the planet. Compared to our population, it is 1,6 tonnes of CO2 per individual and about 50% of what each individual on the planet needs to cut down on CO2. Compared to our total emission, which is 10 tonnes per individual per year, this is 16% of our total CO2 emission. But for many people in developing countries, 1,6 tonnes of CO2 is more than 100% of their total CO2 emissions! It seems therefore that the richest countries in the world must take on themselves much more responsibility than the poor ones if we are going to succeed. Politicians are pulling in different directions, and we are only discussing fractions of what we need to do. Where is the global systematic approach of how and where the cut should be made,- in which sector, in which areas and so on? As I mentioned, deforestation is one of the areas where there is a great potential to cut down on CO2 emissions. With relatively small investments, I’d like to point out how we can cut down on CO2 emissions, equal to 200 million cars on the road.
The worlds' forests are covering about 30% of the world and contains about 2000 Gt of CO2, and is one of the greatest sink of carbon in the world. FAO estimates that 13 million hectares are converted to other uses or lost through natural causes annually. Forest area increase are about 5,7 million hectares, and net deforestation about 7,3 million hectares.
According to UN and the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves 3 billion people are still using woodfuel and charcoal around the world for cooking - and the number is rising. The estimates of woodfuel consummation is between 0,5 and 2 kg per person per day according to WHO. In average we should therefore be rather moderate to calculate 0,6 kg per person, which gives a total consummation of about 660 million tonnes woodfuel in households a year. But how much is really 660 million of tonnes? Can we put it into another figure that is more easy to understand? Maybe if we could translate it into hectares of forest? As a world-average, one hectare of forest gives about 131 m3 of woodfuel (FAO, 2010) or 79 tonnes per hectare forest. 660 million tonnes of woodfuel / 79 tonnes per hectare then gives 8,3 million hectares. As one hectare is 100*100 m this gives us 83 000 km2 of forest or a square of forest that is 288 km in each direction. This is the total deforestation by using wood and charcoal for cooking.
The ancient tradition of cooking, consumes 1 million hectare more than the world net deforestation! To put it in another way, if we could completely replace woodfuel and charcoal with green energy in households around the world, there should be no more deforestation in the world, but a positive net forestation of 1 million hectar per year, which will increasing CO2 mitigation substantially.
Most of the deforestation today are in areas where cooking with woodfuel are dominant. In many African countries, close to 90% of their energy consummation is related to cooking food. Africa have for instance only 17% of the worlds’ forest but a net deforestation of 4,3 million hectares.
Billions of dollars are spend on different political projects to protect the forest, but many times corruption and lack of transparency and willingness to follow through fails on the ground. And there is another problem, the market demand. 3 billion people are using wood and charcoal every day for cooking purposes, and where there is a demand, there will always be suppliers. As long as these people still uses wood and charcoal, the consummation of wood will be intact. It's true, it's a daunting task to change this. But, I think we can and I think we should be able to change it. Serious health issues are also at stake here. 4,3 million people, many of them children are dying each year because of illnesses caused by smoke from traditional stoves. (WHO, 2014)
Solar cooking is in its infancy, but has been more and more popular in recent years. India is now planning to set up solar cookers on 500 000 schools! That will affect millions of people and millions of students and homes will be introduced to solar cooking. That can make an impact in the long run and maybe turn the tide for solar cooker in that region.
Solar energy is the only alternative that is CO2 free and should be used whenever possible. But what is the price-tag and how does solar cooking compares to other projects to reduce CO2 emissions? It is our children who will pay the ultimate price if we don't act. It is not a question whether we can afford it or not, but if we can afford to do too little. All future generations are at stake. Still, lets look at one example.
According to Solar Cooking International there are about 600 million people that can make very well use of solar cookers. They are living in areas where there are plenty of sun, and they have great difficulties in finding firewood or charcoal at a decent price.
Distributing solar cookers to these people groups will require about 150 million solar cookers. Distributing solar cookers at 10 $ each will cost 1500 million dollars to cover for production cost for the first years, and businesses and value chains will have to be established as well. Consumers will eventually pay for their own solar cookers. As we find sustainable business models, the total cost can also be much lower. Still we can save 1200 million tonnes of CO2 each year or 7% of the CO2 we need to save before the year 2050 to keep the temperature increase below 2 degrees C. Is the price tag too high? If you look at the alternative, the question is not whether we can afford it or not, but if we can afford to do nothing. It is our own children that eventually will pay the ultimate price. But nevertheless, lets compare the price-tag to another project, the Ivanpah project in Las Vegas.
The Ivanpah project is the worlds largest solar plant of its kind and is constructed by 347 000 sun-tracking reflectors. It has a bill of 2000 million dollars and can produce close to 400 MW electricity. At the same time as it gives electricity to 140 000 homes, it can also save the world for 400 000 tonnes CO2 a year. This represent 72 000 cars on the roads.
A rough estimation of a solar cooker project that aims to reach 1/5 of those who today use wood and charcoal for cooking can save 1200 million tonnes of CO2. That is 3000 times as much as the Ivanpah project at a lower price-tag, and represent a removal of CO2 equal to 1/5 of all the cars on the planet - 200 million cars! Replacing unsafe cookstoves with modern alternatives is truly the 'low-hanging fruit' of environmental fixes" as US Sen. Susan Collins just said. It is time for not only India to understand the importance of solar cooking!