Putting the cook before the stove: a user-centred approach to understanding household energy decision-making

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. 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.