Poverty and energy poverty go hand in hand. It is estimated that three billion people still rely on solid fuel (firewood, cornstalks, etc.) for cooking, which according to the World Health Organization causes four million deaths per year from the indoor air pollution.

But instead of promoting electricity generation that would take the pollution out of the house altogether, there is a push by the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves to merely reduce the amount of solid fuel burned inside theses poor houses. Their goal is to replace 100 million stoves that burn “firewood; agricultural waste, including corn stalks and dung, and natural debris, such as twigs, limbs and pinecones” with 100 million other stoves that burn the same things (just less of them).

The alliance membership includes the World Bank, which has recently adopted a policy against financing coal-fired power plants. Also, none of the pending energy projects financed via the Inter-American Development Bank (another alliance member) provides electric power from coal, natural gas, or oil.

The problem with this is that renewable energy projects provide less energy per dollar than could be provided from conventional energy sources, even when these conventional sources are equipped with modern pollution abating technology. Researchers have concluded that for every person lifted from energy poverty with renewables, the same money would have lifted four people had the money been spent on conventional power sources.

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