Sustainable Energy

How to solve a $123 billion problem

Anmar Frangoul | Special to
How to solve a $123 billion problem

Almost three billion people in the developing world are still using unsafe, polluting fuels such as coal, charcoal and wood for cooking and heating, according to the World Bank, and it's costing the earth.

The bank estimates that the "health, environmental and economic cost of this continued use of solid fuels is a staggering $123 billion annually."

Enrico Fabian | The Washington Post | Getty Images

The human cost of using such fuels is just as shocking: the World Health Organisation states 3.8 million people die prematurely each year from diseases – everything from ischaemic heart disease to lung cancer – attributable to household air pollution.

Fibi Absuela, a housewife in Kenya, has experienced first-hand the problems of cooking with an inadequate and harmful stove. "If they (her children) have evening studies, the stove affects them a lot because of the smoke," she told CNBC's Sustainable Energy.

"When you light the stove, the smoke can get into the house and the children run out coughing… it isn't because they are sick –it's the smoke from the stove."

Absuela's situation is not unique, and broadening access to clean cooking facilities will play a key role in improving peoples' lives across the planet.

One social enterprise is helping to transform lives with its clean energy, biomass cook stoves.

Colorado-headquartered Envirofit's stoves sell for between $15 and $30. They claim their stoves help to cut "smoke and toxic emissions by up to 80 percent and fuel requirements, costs, and cooking time by up to 60 percent," while CO2 emissions and black carbon are reduced up to 60 and 40 percent respectively.

Black carbon is particulate matter formed by the "incomplete combustion" of fossil fuels, biofuels and biomass, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and can be detrimental to both the health of people and our climate.

Envirofit began with a pilot program in India. Today, its stoves are being used in over 40 countries worldwide.

"Our stove actually saves time, saves energy and also saves some money," Perminus Nyangena, Head of Manufacturing for Envirofit, told CNBC. Nyangena said that on average, "It saves up to 60 percent from the normal ceramic stoves… that is a lot. It is very fast, it reduces your time in cooking by half and it is reliable."