Kenya has experienced a decade of relative prosperity with consistent economic growth and minimal political tension. GDP is growing by 3% annually and poverty rates are declining. Despite these gains, Kenya still has a lot of ground to cover to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

SDG 7, to “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”, exemplifies both Kenya’s achievements and the challenges that remain. Access to grid-based electricity and LPG have grown rapidly. However, over 90% of Kenyans still rely on polluting fuels like wood, charcoal and kerosene for cooking. Substantial effort is needed to ensure all Kenyans have access to clean cooking options by 2030.

This article in Environmental Research Letters presents the results of a pilot study in which gasifier-based pellet stoves were introduced in 150 peri-urban households. The stoves include an internal fan that improves combustion efficiency and reduces emissions by 90–99% relative to charcoal and fuelwood in traditional devices. Some of the households received stoves with “pay-as-you-cook” (PAYC) hardware, some without. This hardware relies on a pre-paid RFID card to activate the stove’s internal fan, allowing vendors to sell the stove below cost and recoup losses through pellet sales.

Users were willing to include pellet stoves in their cooking routines and, in many cases, pellets displaced polluting fuels. PAYC hardware did not negatively impact adoption; in fact, PAYC users had higher daily rates of fuel consumption and reported higher willingness to pay for the stove than non-PAYC users. However, stoves were not used exclusively. Instead, people stacked pellets in combination with other cooking options, with pellets meeting 12–40% of their cooking needs (inter-quartile range).

Although the project did not successfully overcome all of the barriers necessary to achieve long-term adoption of advanced pellet stoves, the results demonstrate that pellets could contribute to a portfolio of cleaner options.