Full steam ahead: Reflections on the first anniversary of the Clean Cooking Fund

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Woman in Rwanda cooking at home. Photo: Yabei Zhang/World Bank Woman in Rwanda cooking at home. Photo: Yabei Zhang/World Bank

Since the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) launched the Clean Cooking Fund (CCF) at the UN Climate Action Summit just over a year ago, the world has changed radically. As governments and development partners take urgent actions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the worst economic downturn in decades, we now have a unique opportunity to transform global energy systems to ensure a more sustainable and inclusive recovery.  At a recently organized high-level webinar, part of a series on the progress of energy-transition initiatives since the Climate Action Summit, I had the chance to reflect on the CCF’s vision, current progress and challenges, and next steps. 

The Vision 
The CCF was established to accelerate progress toward universal access to clean cooking by 2030, a key component of Sustainable Development Goal 7. To achieve this goal, the CCF’s three main objectives are to

  • leverage finance of the World Bank and other multilateral development banks (MDBs) and attract private-sector investments,
  • catalyze technology and business innovations by providing incentives to players across clean-cooking value chains, and
  • link incentive payments with verified results at the output, outcome, and impact levels. 

With a funding target of US$500 million over five years, our ambition for the Clean Cooking Fund is to catalyze another US$2 billion in public and private investments and help 200 million people gain access to clean cooking.  

Progress to Date
Thanks to funding pledges from the governments of Norway, the Netherlands, and Denmark, the CCF is now fully functional and has attracted support from additional governments, development partners, and the private sector. An initial pipeline of projects in several countries such as Burundi, Myanmar, Nepal, and Uganda has been developed, amounting to more than US$100 million in CCF co-financing and at least the same amount from the World Bank. The first CCF co-financed project, Rwanda Energy Access and Quality Improvement Project, approved just last month, includes a US$20 million clean cooking component comprising CCF and IDA (the International Development Association) funding of US$10 million each. This project—the largest clean cooking operation in Africa—will help more than 2 million people in Rwanda access clean cooking solutions.

On the knowledge side, we just launched The State of Access to Modern Energy Cooking Services in collaboration with Loughborough University and the Clean Cooking Alliance. This report provides an in-depth, comprehensive understanding of households’ cooking-energy needs using a new measurement framework with a new set of estimates and recommended pathways for accelerated access to modern cooking. 

Clean Cooking Fund milestones

Meeting the Challenge
For the first time ever, we have a real window of opportunity to bend the curve on clean cooking for several key reasons.  First, policy prioritization is increasing at both global and country levels. Last month, for example, the G20 energy ministers endorsed the G20 Initiative on Clean Cooking and Energy Access, and more countries are formalizing cooking energy demand in their national energy planning and strategies with specific targets. Second, new and emerging technologies, business models, and financing mechanisms are enabling many more households to access affordable solutions, in the same way off-grid solar has revolutionized electricity access. Third, thanks to new data and research, understanding of household cooking-energy needs and sector dynamics is growing. 

This past year’s Clean Cooking Fund experience confirms that, with high-level commitment and sizable investment, it is possible to bend the curve—even in the face of unexpected challenges like COVID-19.  The relationship between air quality and the ongoing pandemic underscores the interlinkages of cooking with health, gender, environment, and climate and re-emphasizes the need to prioritize clean cooking as part of governments’ response and recovery planning and rebuilding. 

Now it’s full steam ahead. Moving forward, we will continue to (i) mobilize funding to meet the growing CCF pipeline demand to leverage more public and private financing, (ii) support the preparation and implementation of CCF projects to generate on-the-ground results, and (iii) catalyze innovation for more affordable and sustainable solutions. Let’s work together to accelerate access to clean cooking so that we rebuild better post-COVID, ensuring a healthier, greener, and more equitable recovery. 

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Yabei zhang

Senior Energy Specialist, World Bank

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