[Stoves] Project design and implementation I [Was Sujatha on Stove types and poverty]

Nikhil Desai pienergy2008 at gmail.com
Sat Jul 28 16:33:09 MDT 2018


Thank you, thank you.. a dozen times. There are gems of observations here
on "the project culture," independent of the Deganga project or technology.
It works well with bankable investment projects, but not with retail goods
promotion. Technologists think governments are like Walmart or Safeway.

>From my reading of cookstove project implementation literature over the
years, what you have written is refreshing, in some places unprecedented,
and extremely well-written. Better than anything I have.

But then you know project and people realities on-the-ground AND understand
the processes of intellectuals and bureaucrats. Not just mindsets, I mean
the processes that make intellectuals and bureaucrats think and behave as
they do; their incentives and predilections.

Ok, praise enough.

There is one opinion of yours I am not happy with - not that I disagree -
and have struggled with - Users paying "full price" for the stove:

First, the term "full price" is vague. When it comes to portable cookstove,
the manufacturer and the distributor have costs that are unknowable and
even for them,  unpredictable or difficult to allocate, e.g., inventory,
financing, logistics. If there is just one type and model of a stove, you
can be pretty much sure that no usual retailer would be terribly interested
in it. This is as much true of solar home systems and solar lanterns as of
stoves. What the final seller decides as the price at which the product
moves is the "full price", it may or may not be what the manufacturer or
distributor deem to be a "profitable price". The usual rules of thumb about
"distribution margins" or "overheads" apply in setting a price, but not
only does marketing require changing the production and shipping schedule
as needed, prices also have to change in order to make space, introduce
newer products. Profitability is something one knows at the end of the
month or the quarter, except for the very small daily trader who only
counts cash in the morning and night.

Second, I believe in "subsidies" or "discounting". If as a government I
cannot subsidize, in some way or another, I don't think I should be in the
business of blabbering about public policy objectives of saving forests,
climate, women, or producing aDALYs. Otherwise it is a waste on pompous
theorizing and fictitious evidence. I don't care for physicists and
sociologists preaching "no subsidies". There are problems with poorly
designed subsidies, but "make work" welfare programs for EPA and its
contractors is as much public expenditure as any subsidies to stove
manufacturers or fuel suppliers.

Now, research and conferences too have their legitimate purpose - if linked
to a workable plan. GACC, I am half-willing to grant, had a genuine intent,
but other than that "issue international standards, and Hillary would bring
billions", it didn't seem to have a workable plan, just fantasies.

Even that I am more than prepared to ignore, having been a marketer of such
fancies in the past (including on LPG, "advanced biomass stoves", in the
name of millions dead and climate change). I was excited when Hillary
became the Secretary of State and John Holdren the science advisor to Obama
that "cleaner cooking" could get some mileage. The $100+ million of US
government could have gone for productive research.

So the question I have been grappling with is, HOW to subsidize, not

I don't have an answer but have two hunches:

a) Small grants (up to $500k) can subsidize individual stove types for
small projects, and should, risking the results would not be as promised.
What alone matters is usability and use. If a stove is not used, all its
promises remain in Amazon cloud. Such small grants, if competitive, can
introduce multiple stoves in a given marketshed, but even a single type, if
market-tested on an even small basis like the Deganga project, is ok. The
transaction costs are high, but the more important issue is getting the
right performance metrics. I for one don't give a hoot for the efficiency
of boiling water, nor for emission rates per minute or per MJd. If the
efficiency is acceptable to the user, that is enough. It is only when
efficiency drives the price of commercial wood or charcoal down - because
the demand falls, depending on price elasticity of supply - that the stove
program can be said to have made any difference. Similarly, it is only when
a low-emission stove has actually led to improvement in indoor and outdoor
air qualities that its emission rates are relevant, if at all. (Utilization
rate and stacking are important.) Such small grants - covering not just
working capital but what we call technological and financial
intermediation, expert assistance in the microscopic details of getting
pro-poor businesses the technical knowledge of combustion and cooking, and
getting loans from local banks - are absolutely vital to prove that a new
retail product begins to "sell itself".

b) In many instances, fuel quality for solid fuels - primary or processed -
should be ascertained for every novel stove (cooking or heating), and it
may make sense to advance similar small grants to fuel enterprises or
combined fuel/stove enterprises. The rebuttable presumption that meals,
fuels and cooks are contextual, vary from one place to another and over
time, must be applied in designing the scope of these grants. I happen to
believe, with Dr Karve for instance, that there is a vast organic waste
resource that can be turned into charcoal. (Similarly for waste oils into
liquid combustibles, but I don't know enough.) This kind of
waste-fuel-stove triple-objective strategy is inherent in char-making
cookstoves except that the wastes under consideration are tree wastes.
Larger enterprises could have greater variety and quantity of tree and crop
wastes, and even wastes from food processing, and can use the pyrolytic
gases and char themselves and sell food products and char (if extra). Let's
not forget that huge shares of primary food production is wasted; properly
collected, it too can be a fuel source, including for biogas and power
generation. I am not suggesting that only those stoves that use processed
solid fuels be financed, just that incorporating feedstocks into the
calculus helps take advantage of synergies and cost reduction potentials,
while avoiding some risks. (The famous BP case of selling household Oorja
on pellet fuels but losing the market as brick kilns started paying more
for the crop and mill wastes.)

I am also thinking that such "small grants" have to be i) programmatic, so
as to allow enough learning, feedback, and careful expansion for more
stakeholders, greater diversity of stoves and fuels, and ii) aggregated so
that a common pool of technical or rather "merchant banking" (knowledge
plus money, in various financial instruments) can be applied across the

GACC had quite a few good ideas along such "business support" lines. But it
went gung-ho on the red herrings of international standards and "truly
health protective" emission rates.

The monster of "solid fuels are dirty" and "emissions are hazardous" must
be slain as soon as possible. EPA/WHO have taken one step forward, three
backwards. All to do marketing for the rich (oil companies or professors).


Nikhil Desai
(US +1) 202 568 5831
*Skype: nikhildesai888*

On Sat, Jul 28, 2018 at 2:10 AM, Sujatha Srinivasan <sujatha at servals.in>

> Dear members of the group,
> Greetings. I speak here now, because I was “asked” along with Sujay on the
> cc by Nikhil.:)) Please know that although silent mostly, my team and I
> read most of the messages, and also take the liberty to “pass along” what
> we believe is relevant to the people in our cookstove eco-system. So thank
> you for your discussions.
> I have the following points to ‘contribute’ to the discussion, based on
> what I am understanding from the email thread. But before that, a quick
> ‘setting of expectations’ - I do not have direct access to “primary data”
> from the Deganga project. My responses are based on the data submitted to
> me in my role as the “attester” for the project.  31,000 TLUDs is what
> has been submitted to me as the number of stoves deployed. Not 40,000.
> ·       I think there are many things that made the TLUD “click” in the
> Deganga project – and at this point, in my opinion, none can be singled out
> as “key”. Unless someone funds a scientifically designed field research and
> does a “regression analysis” on the “satisfaction levels with the stove”.
> Until then, it can be a debate of perspectives – with some saying that it
> is only because of the stove, with some saying its only because of the
> carbon funding, with some saying its only because of the stove-char market
> which puts money in the hands of the household.
> o   Unless there is a project where users are paying the full price for
> the stove, it would be difficult to assess what really drives the “favoring
> of the TLUD stove” or any stove for that matter. In any project for that
> matter.
> o   I also think that the “key drivers of purchase” for any stove – will
> change with scale and duration of the project. Since user expectations are
> a moving target… so the results of any study that attempts to understand
> factors that “favour the stove” from users, in my opinion, may be more
> interesting for the “direct project stakeholders” as an input to manage
> user expectations or to establish that the “right” stove was chosen. But
> such studies could also run the risk of spotlighting one part of the
> solution and trying to extrapolate based on that.
> ·       Testing of stoves, the way it is discussed in the groups, seems
> largely focused on “first time testing till a stove model is chosen for a
> project”.
> o   Once the choice is made, the commercials are locked and in a way
> “closes” out adding further improvements to the stove or closes out debates
> on how the stove was tested and how good the testing was.
> o   It would be equally important to have a set of guidelines to ensure
> that the production practices of the vendors support consistency in quality
> to the stove submitted for testing. Who does this verification? And how
> robust is it? Is it largely left to the governance systems of the funder or
> the business ethics of the vendor or the “market’s ability to observe and
> escalate?
> o   Large projects do not always think like how Dr. Paul Anderson thinks,
> when he wrote – “If I were to conduct or have a hand in such testing, the
> results could be questioned.”. They should be.
> ·       To Nikhil’s references on procurement and bureaucracy,
> particularly for large projects, it is inherently in the nature of such
> large projects to have a stronger business/commercial angle to it, that
> might have the fall-out of creating entry barriers and tentative
> information sharing, for other potential contributors – whether in terms of
> technology or financial solutions. In most cases, most of the “non-product”
> process are set up fairly rigidly, at the outset, dictated by project
> feasibility (not exactly wrong either). The net effect, in my opinion
> being, a large project that has higher potential to benefit the deserving,
> can get “closed” to positive contributions from others.
> ·       Which, as I see it realistically, perhaps opens up opportunities
> to attract “specific” funding rather than just scale funding
> o   I would think that the best way to attract funding for such large
> scale projects – is to bring forward proposals that represent positive
> contributions to the project – but are not covered in the original
> commercials.  For instance - adding technical improvements to the stove
> or improving the stove eco-system based on scale to sustain stove usage.
> o   But then a reasonable hypothesis would be that this will again come
> back to the inherent nature of large projects to being bureaucratic and
> “closed” to such lateral entries.
> o   In fact, it might actually require a high level of maturity by the
> project stakeholders to open the project up for others to be able to
> identify such niches – which means opening up the project to field studies
> by others.
> Thank you for the “space” to make my comments. I’m sure these are not
> entirely new to you.
> Kind Regards
> Sujatha
> On Fri, Jul 27, 2018 at 3:04 AM, Anderson, Paul <psanders at ilstu.edu>
> wrote:
>> Nikhil,
>> Directly answering your questions:
>> 1.  No.   I do not have funds for stove testing for TLUD stoves.
>> 2.  Surprise response:   For MY work, I am not seeking funding for
>> testing of TLUD stoves.   Not small grants, not large grants.     That is
>> not utilizing my strengths.   And If I were to conduct or have a hand in
>> such testing, the results could be questioned.
>> So, AN OFFER.    Anyone who has the funds and ability to test the TLUD
>> stoves as they are being so successfully in use in West Bengal will have my
>> full support and assistance to facilitate the necessary arrangements.   I
>> can be an adviser, or left off of the list.
>> Yes, such testing needs to be done.   But my work is on expanding what is
>> being continually shown to be working well with TLUD stoves in West
>> Bengal.   (Funding would greatly help.)
>> Paul
>> Doc / Dr TLUD / Paul S. Anderson, PhD
>> Exec. Dir. of Juntos Energy Solutions NFP
>> Email:  psanders at ilstu.edu       Skype:   paultlud
>> Phone:  Office: 309-452-7072    Mobile: 309-531-4434
>> *From:* Nikhil Desai <pienergy2008 at gmail.com>
>> *Sent:* Thursday, July 26, 2018 3:15 PM
>> *To:* Anderson, Paul <psanders at ilstu.edu>
>> *Cc:* Discussion of biomass cooking stoves <stoves at lists.bioenergylists.o
>> rg>; Crispin Pemberton-Pigott <crispinpigott at outlook.com>; Sujoy
>> Chaudhury <sujoy.chaudhury at gmail.com>; Sujatha Srinivasan <
>> sujatha at servals.in>
>> *Subject:* Re: [Stoves] Stove types and poverty [Was Rogerio:
>> Pro-publicaarticle out]
>> Paul:
>> Do you have the money to conduct in-field research on TLUD gasifiers'
>> emission rates and the impact on indoor air concentrations as well as
>> associated (caused or not) changes in disease incidence by age and sex?
>> Say, for about three locations varying in biomass fuel types and quality,
>> cooking practices, and weather/season conditions, with or without chimneys?
>> If so, someone can propose to use HAPIT for two weeks at a time, six
>> month intervals over three years, and certify aDALYs that you can then
>> market at the rate of three times the per capita income.
>> This would take about two person-years of US/EU-level consulting, and 20
>> person-years of India/Mexico-level consulting, plus travel and expenses, at
>> about $1.2 million. There has to be at least one "international"
>> investigator with enough say-so to publish in Lancet or Science, or some
>> Elsevier journal.
>> If you have $10 m, you will likely get results favorable to you, or at
>> least not disfavorable to you.
>> Or you could take Kirk Smith's mania for what it is - nothing.
>> I just wrote an off-list response where you were cc'd. Kirk Smith's faith
>> in "Mind the Gap" is unwarranted, simply because the supposed
>> "non-linearity of exposure-response at the lower levels of exposures" is
>> not based on any relevant data. It borrows spotty - and disputed -
>> literature on active and passive smoking, outdoor air pollution, for
>> radically different cohorts over radically different air quality
>> situations. It assumes that everybody has the same confounding factors -
>> health conditions, genetic stock, access to and availability of health care
>> and medicine - everywhere in the world and any time, independent of the
>> duration of the exposure.
>> You can ignore the deceit that is in computations of premature deaths and
>> DALYs. What matters for HAPIT is simply the change in PM2.5 concentrations,
>> the assumptions behind which are unfounded and ludicrous, to say the least.
>> I had a short critique of HAPIT last October, and sent it to Gold
>> Standard, GACC (Sumi) and Kirk Smith, Ajay Pillarisetti. I posted a summary
>> on this list. You may get the full critique from them;
>> It is not just a critique of HAPIT; implicitly it is an attempt to
>> deconstruct the whole ideology of "emission rates are damages".
>> Now, back to what should be done differently.
>> 1. Junk the notion of "safe" emission rates. What matters for "health" is
>> significant reduction in the dosage of pollutants implicated in disease
>> causation chain. Prof. Smith can go on ad absurdum about "associations" of
>> this and that with PM2.5 levels, but, apart from blind faith in "the Gap"
>> and IER, he has no business making any judgments about relative emission
>> rates. (That is, I am willing to accept the absolutes - gas and electricity
>> cause lower emissions and that unprocessed solid fuels may cause more. It
>> is relative to what and with what impact on dosages, and which pollutants -
>> including those from food itself - that matters, and even then only in
>> part. There are few mass deaths due to dirty indoor air - 9/11 World Trade
>> Towers and Pentagon is one example, Montepeuz prison is another.)
>> 2. Junk ISO circus, and in particular the PM2.5 emission rate tiers, and
>> the WHO "Guidelines for HFC". WHO has no business in energy and
>> environmental policy, pretense and over-reach to the contrary, and knows
>> little of air quality management, food culture, or economics. On your own,
>> investigate a little about chemistry of local fuels and composition of PICs
>> in your TLUD stoves other than CO. If high-temperature pyrolysis has
>> virtually eliminated NMVOCs, relax. If there are still some that lead to
>> indoor concentrations that are uncomfortable to the user, see whether any
>> behavioral change is needed. Or use a chimney and check if it makes outdoor
>> air quality worse than the national standard for hourly maximum or daily
>> average and if so, for how much time.
>> 3. My three questions were:
>> i) What does a very poor household want in an improved stove - reliable
>> fuel efficiency or low smoke, or, often, nothing, because the head of the
>> household wants to fix a window or throw a party?;
>> ii) What is "good enough" in the sense of "marketable, usable" for
>> not-so-poor households and what all determine the overall economy of
>> cooking - not just costs of competing stoves and fuels but availability and
>> cost of water or food ingredients;
>> iii) Are there "cooking systems" options that actually help alleviate
>> poverty in terms of freeing up cash savings or time?
>> I think - based on what I have read of the West Bengal project - I am
>> cc'ing Sujatha and Sujoy, if they wish to add - that these three went in
>> the favor of your Champion TLUD stove.
>> This brings me to your questions:
>> A. It seems good enough to get some support for some further scale up. No
>> doubt. Public procurement rules go against "sole source" contracting, but
>> if Shell Foundation or even UN Foundation have a window of "small projects"
>> - the way UNDP/GEF had years ago ($200-500k, I think), that would be the
>> best bet for you or your project partners. Bankability is the test. I
>> suggest putting together a business plan and prospectus for a $2m funding
>> for a total project cost of $5-10 m (including the cost of the stoves, paid
>> for by the users by and large except for initial discount or credit.)
>> C. Bureaucracies run on prods and fads, and have different thresholds of
>> commitments for money and time, and different processes of justification.
>> DfID dumped some 40 million pounds in India, Kenya, and GACC to get --
>> don't know what; the project documents promised the sky, nighttime and
>> daytime, because some bureaucrat (could have been a friend of mine; I don't
>> know) chose to go ga ga over GACC and its misadventures. US government blew
>> $100+ million (I have a table in a draft post) on "clean cookstoves" but
>> mostly via USAID, USEPA, USDOE, NIH, and CDC. Its output is peer-reviewed
>> papers and ISO song-and-dance.
>> I cautioned readers of this list two years ago that WHO/ISO meant to
>> drive clean solid fuel stoves out of the market by definition and by
>> regulation. And that GACC had no legal existence, hence no accountability.
>> Does anybody still doubt me?
>> Nikhil
>> On Wed, Jul 25, 2018 at 11:26 PM, Anderson, Paul <psanders at ilstu.edu>
>> wrote:
>> Nikhil,
>> You wrote:
>> >>. I am still looking for a formulation of the problem, definition of a
>> market, and the delivery >>chain for usable stoves and fuels, at an
>> appreciable scale.
>> Are you saying that the West Bengal success story (Deganga report with
>> 11,000, and now expanded to about 40,000), plus what I have been
>> formulating, defining and with delivery chain is:
>> A.   Not good enough to get some support for some further scale up?  Or
>> B.   Is not known by you?   (as if you and others are not even aware of
>> the progress and methods that are functional thus far on a break-even and
>> even net financial gain  basis.)  Or
>> C.   Something else????
>> What should be done differently?    Or abandon because it is not
>> sufficient?
>> I cannot get Kirk Smith to publicly comment specifically on the TLUD
>> gasifiers.  So you are in good company as those who cannot see any success
>> worthy of acknowledging with biomass-fueled stove.
>> Paul     (still with multiple avenues for moving forward.)
>> Doc / Dr TLUD / Paul S. Anderson, PhD
>> Exec. Dir. of Juntos Energy Solutions NFP
>> Email:  psanders at ilstu.edu       Skype:   paultlud
>> Phone:  Office: 309-452-7072    Mobile: 309-531-4434
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