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What are the factors influencing the large-scale uptake by households of cleaner and more efficient household energy technologies?

What do we want to know?

Nearly three billion people worldwide rely on biomass fuels (2.4 billion) and coal (0.4 billion) burnt inefficiently on open fires or simple stoves. These traditional household energy practices have dramatic consequences for health, the environment and socio-economic development. Ensuring access to clean and efficient household energy is therefore a major and urgent challenge faced by low- and middle-income countries. While marked by some successful programmes at both large and small scales, this is generally acknowledged to be a challenging area for policy and implementation. This mixed-method systematic review aims to contribute to this endeavour by identifying those factors which can help ensure more successful delivery of policies and programmes that promote improved solid fuel stoves (ICS) and/or clean fuels.

Review objectives

The main objective of this systematic review was to describe and assess the importance of different enabling and/or limiting factors that have been found to influence the large-scale uptake by households of cleaner and more efficient household energy technologies. These comprise five intervention areas: ICS and four clean fuels, i.e. liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), biogas, solar cookers and alcohol fuels.

More specifically, the systematic review: (i) provides a framework consisting of seven domains of factors influencing large-scale uptake, distinguishing between short-term adoption and longer-term sustained use; (ii) gives a summary of existing knowledge relating to each of these domains, including interpretation of data with respect to equity; (iii) outlines a proposal for a tool to facilitate implementation of these findings in programme planning, and (iv) sets an agenda for essential primary research to better understand how policies and programmes to promote cleaner and more efficient household energy technologies must be designed in order to be successful.

What did we find?

For all five types of intervention, a broad range of factors were identified across  seven domains which include:  (i) Fuel and technology characteristics, (ii) Household and setting characteristics, (iii) Knowledge and perceptions, (iv) Financial, tax and subsidy aspects, (v) Market development, (vi) Regulation, legislation and standards, and (vii) Programmatic and policy mechanisms. Rather than presenting these factors as discrete enablers and barriers, the systematic review suggests that these can most usefully be seen as operating on a spectrum, so that when present or satisfactory they are enabling, and vice versa.

In terms of relative importance, while factors such as meeting household needs, fuel savings, higher income levels, effective financing and facilitative government action seem critical and necessary for success, none is sufficient in its own right to guarantee adoption and sustained use, and all those relevant to a given setting need to be assessed. Accordingly, these are described as ‘necessary but not sufficient’. The nature of the available evidence does not support a more formal prioritisation of factors, and the relevance of most will vary according to context (setting, fuel and technology); indeed some are very specific to fuel type, especially for biogas and solar cookers.

Consistency across different types of evidence, countries and settings supports the robustness of the findings and the general relevance of individual factors. Findings from this review draw on experience from some large-scale programmes including the Indian and Chinese national improved stove programmes, the national mega-conversion from kerosene to LPG in Indonesia and the Brazilian LPG experience, but mainly stem from much smaller-scale projects and programmes.

What are the implications?

The breadth of factors identified across domains may appear to present a challenge for focused and efficient policy-making, so the question of which are most important is critical. The reviewed evidence suggests that all domains and all the identified factors within them can influence adoption and/or sustained use of ICS and clean fuels, although the extent of that influence is often dependent on the setting and specific stove/fuel combination.

Consequently, it is recommended that a policy planning tool incorporating the findings of the review work be developed and tested. Given that specific policy and programmatic actions are dependent on the choice of intervention and setting, the tool needs to incorporate an element of flexibility in order to allow adaptation The and  needs to be applicable to both programme planning and in the evaluation of programmes that have already been implemented.

How did we get these results?

This systematic review employed a comprehensive search strategy comprising searches in 27 multi-disciplinary bibliographic databases, 14 specialist websites, the grey literature and consultation with experts, covering the period 1980 to 2012. Three types of evidence – qualitative studies, quantitative studies and policy/case studies – were eligible, provided that they related to a direct experience with one of the five types of intervention, and that they reported empirical information on factors influencing initial adoption or sustained use. 101 studies met the inclusion criteria with studies being conducted in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The EPPI-Centre reference number for this report is 2109. The report should be cited as:

Puzzolo E, Stanistreet D, Pope D, Bruce N, Rehfuess E (2013) Factors influencing the large-scale uptake by households of cleaner and more efficient household energy technologies. London: EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.
ISBN: 978-1-907345-62-3

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