Journal Article - October 2021
Do improved cookstoves save time and improve gender outcomes? Evidence from six developing countries
Three billion people around the world lack access to affordable and reliable clean cooking energy. The case for clean energy has largely been built around health and or environmental benefits, neglecting potentially sizeable benefit(s): when households have clean energy, they can save time and reduce drudgery. Clean energy can reduce poverty. But how large are time savings from the adoption and use of improved cookstoves (ICS)? Do these benefits accrue especially to women? To answer these questions, we develop a conceptual framework based on household production, and then employ two complementary empirical methods. First, we review the impact evaluation literature that estimates time savings from use of various ICS. Second, we conduct multivariable regression analysis of Multi-Tier Framework (MTF) data from six countries to estimate the impacts of ICS on time spent on cooking. The review and econometric estimation offer consistent evidence that ICS can help households save time, but the estimated savings vary across locations, technologies, and study methods. Time savings (i) are consistent across both rural and urban areas, (ii) are greatest for fuel collection and preparation (rather than cooking), (iii) accrue to both women and men, and (iv) are highest for more advanced technologies and fuels (like electricity, LPG, and biogas). Overall, our pooled econometric estimates suggest that ICS use leads households to save about 34 min per day. Our estimate is lower than the average of estimates in the literature (68 min/day), but not so different from the average among a lower cluster of estimates (29 min/day). While our work illuminates shortcomings inherent in current research on this topic, our results constitute an important first step towards advancing the practice of quantification of time savings from household energy interventions.