Putting the cook before the stove: A User-Centred Approach to Understanding Household Energy Decision-Making – A case study of Haryana State, northern India

Submitted by Michael Rastall | published 3rd Aug 2012 | last updated 17th Jan 2023
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This study seeks to better understand the most important influences over household energy choices, in order to identify practical ways to support communities shifting to cleaner energy use.

Globally, 1.4 billion people lack access to electricity and an estimated 2.7 billion rely on traditional biomass – wood, charcoal, animal waste and agricultural residues – for cooking and space heating. Roughly one third of this population lives in rural India. 

Over the past two decades, considerable efforts have been made to introduce improved cookstoves and/or cleaner cooking fuels in India, but as in other countries, these interventions have largely failed to bring about a large-scale transition towards cleaner, more “modern” cooking technologies.

It has been argued that a central problem with most efforts has been that they paid too little attention to users’ needs and cultural contexts, but rather over-emphasised technical factors such energy efficiency and emissions reductions.

The authors use a qualitative “generative” research methodology to investigate energy use and dynamics in four villages in Haryana State. They find a range of social, cultural and financial factors that influence the way people make decisions about energy and cooking, including the availability and flexibility of traditional fuels, the type of dishes prepared, the taste of food, problems with smoke, the aesthetic appeal of stoves, and how users perceive alternatives. 

These findings have implications for efforts to design effective cookstove interventions, most notably the Indian Government’s ambitious National Biomass Cookstove Initiative, which aims to provide all Indian households currently using inefficient stoves with “next-generation” biomass stoves.

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Suggested citation

Lambe, F., and A. Atteridge., (2012). Putting the cook before the stove: A user-centred approach to understanding household energy decision-making- A case study of Haryana State, northern India. SEI Working Paper.