Productive Energy and Clean Cooking
with Abhishek Jain (CEEW)

In this episode, we speak with Abhishek Jain from the Council of Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).

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Show notes and related resources

CEEW: company website

Abhishek Jain's Nature article on LPG and clean cooking

Abhishek Jain: 12 (not so) obvious insights about distributed renewables for productive use

Podcast Summary

Episode notes

Part 1:

  • (1:40) Introduction to CEEW, the Council on Energy Environment and Water - a not-for-profit think tank. Abhishek's focus on energy access, productive livelihoods, and food systems

  • (6:00) Their work in international topics, outside of India

  • (7:45) India's energy landscape and the significant progress in recent years: estimated 97% electrification rate in India; improving availability (~21 hours/day) and the ongoing need for reliability

  • (10:45) Most electrification conducted by the national, government-led efforts; ~0.5% of population received electricity from decentralised energy solutions

  • (12:45) Powering Livelihoods program, focused on productive energy use and solar powered solutions, in partnership with Villgro; working with existing enterprises to expand their deployment (focused on agribusiness and textiles); collecting data to provide evidence for the viability of the sector

  • (16:30) The types of solutions they work with: solar water pumps, cold storage and biomass, drying machines, sorting machines, processing machines, expelling machines; spinning machines, solar looms etc. The pipeline of solar powered productive energy use appliances

  • (21:00) Supporting the enterprises to adapt to a post-COVID environment; engaging with government agencies and financial players

  • (23:30) The focus on gender within their work: ensuring greater gender inclusivity in their program

  • (25:00) Existing limited irrigation in agriculture; the diversity in groundwater health across India - some areas are facing water stress, but other areas have the potential to improve their use of water resources

  • (28:40) CEEW's tool to assess whether water pumps should be used in a specific areas, and what additional technologies should be deployed alongside water pumps

  • (31:00) Dual electricity distribution network: one for agriculture and water pumps, one for household use

  • (33:00) Water-as-a-Service solutions and business models

Part 2:

  • (2:00) What is the need for clean cooking and why solid fuels are an issue; the public health impact of solid cooking fuels

  • (5:00) The clean cooking solutions that are available: Biogas, LPG, Electricity, Natural Gas (BLEN); the contentious research around improved cookstoves in contrast to clean cooking

  • (7:30) India's focus on LPG to provide clean cooking solutions; LPG's history in India and its penetration to rural India

  • (11:00) Affordability as the most significant barrier to widespread adoption to clean cooking; cultural and behavioural elements to changing behaviour; 50% of rural households are now using LPG

  • (13:30) Four key recommendations: 1) Additional nudges and incentives are required 2) Community norms are very important 3) Households with cattle are less likely to transition 4) Household with irregular incomes are less likely to transition to LPG

  • (19:00) Fuel stacking, and using multiple sources of energy

  • (21:40) 12 (not so) obvious insights about distributed renewables for productive use

    • (21:40) 1. The market opportunity is BIG

    • (24:10) 2. But the market is hard-to-capture

    • (26:00) 3. It’s a game of value, not volume

    • (27:55) 4. Energy efficiency is the key

    • (29:40) 5. End-user financing and service-oriented business models would be game-changing

    • (31:30) 6. For manufacturers: It is hard to survive on a single product

    • (33:00) 7. For deployers: Sustaining a single product portfolio would be unviable

    • (33:00) 8. To survive on a single product — vertical integration is the way to go

    • (33:00) 9. There are no big manufacturers for most productive use appliances

    • (35:10) 10. Market signals are weak. Only the perseverant and networked can succeed

    • (36:45) 11. Distribution channels are not apparent, but existing

    • (38:30) 12. Keep in mind the big picture: A new rural economy

  • (39:00) The impact of COVID-19, the potential to focus efforts on a rural economy; impact of disruption in value chains; the potential to innovate during COVID-19; the trauma of returning to rural areas during COVID-19 lockdown.