Blog: Understanding Solar 2

12 June 2014

Not being an authority on the subject, I am writing this blog to share my learning and analysis. As a business consultant I always take a systematic approach to addressing a market, although I haven't devised an analytical framework for this one....well not yet!

I aim to explore the global market for low cost solar cookers in order to understand and possibly help address some of the barriers to growth. As I said previously, this is a huge market, but with huge challenges. The WHO states:

• Around 3 billion people cook and heat their homes using open fires and simple stoves burning biomass (wood, animal dung and crop waste) and coal.
• Over 4 million people die prematurely from illness attributable to the household air pollution from cooking with solid fuels.

Charities and other organisations all over the world are making good progress, offering a wide range of solutions designed to tackle different needs, weather conditions, cultural traditions, political situations, etc.  Much information can already be found on excellent websites such as Solar Cooking International’s, their Network Wiki and their newsletter the Solar Cooker Review, edited by Patricia Mcardle, one of solar cooking’s greatest advocates.

However the World Bank states ‘Without a substantial change in policy, the total number of people relying on solid fuels will remain largely unchanged by 2030.’

Low cost solar cookers are aimed at:
1. Low income households
2. Destitute families
3. Survivors of natural disasters
4. Refugees

Today the more affluent eco aware householders and outdoor leisure enthusiasts can purchase some really effective and practical cookers, but is there a viable commercial market for low tech, low cost cookers? What is the potential for solar cooking, and how can it be realised?

Viv Sloan

PS you should, hopefully, be able to leave comments below by Monday

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There is a huge potential market for solar cookers indeed. However, to make people use the cookers regularly, manufacturers must make sure they are as reliable as possible. In particular, this means maximizing the number of cooking days for a given model in the year. They should work not only on clear days, but also on half-cloudy days, dusty days, and so forth.
I am promoting solar cookers myself since a few years back. The best way to convince a new user of the technology is by letting him see neighbours and acquaintances cook with a solar cooker regularly. And this will only happen when the early-adopter acquaintances feel confident that the cooking will succeed on most days. That's when the solar cooker will become a part of their daily habits, and that's when the multiple benefits a solar cooker offers will reward its user.

Josef Garvi, 16 June 2014