Problem: Open fire cooking is inefficient, requiring large amounts of wood or charcoal. The huge demand for woodfuel for cooking has led to large scale deforestation across the globe, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Household Air Pollution (HAP) is a major contributor to illness and death in the developing world. Inhaling cook smoke can lead to pneumonia, stroke, ischaemic heart disease, COPD, and lung cancer.
Solution: The ACE 1 is a smokeless biomass cookstove, which burns any type of biomass both cleanly and smoke-free indoors or outdoors and drastically decreases exposure to carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter (PM2.5), the primary components of HAP, during cooking. Many households in the developing world also rely on kerosene candles for lighting, which further increases HAP; the ACE 1 includes an LED lamp attachment which provides clean, safe lighting.
Goals and Objectives: The ACE 1 is capable of mitigating many of the problems associated with biomass cooking, as well as offering additional benefits by generating free solar electricity.
Implementation: The solution is developed by the African Clean Energy, a startup founded in Lesotho by Father and son team Stephen and Ruben Walker in 2011 to provide off-grid household energy solutions to people in Sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere in the developing world.
The ACE 1 symbiotically combines clean biomass combustion and solar electricity to create an integrated solution addressing customers’ energy needs in a cost-effective way. The product decreases fuel use by 50-85% and it can burn any type of solid biomass, which opens up more fuel alternatives such as agricultural residue or even dried cow dung. It also comes distributed with a 10V/10W solar panel to support device charging and lighting, which for low-income households is a significant financial benefit since basic electricity expenses constitute the bulk of their monthly energy cost. This novel blend of thermal and electric energy generation makes the ACE 1 a unique energy product in its category, as it combines the health, social and environmental benefits of a cookstove with the business model of a solar home system. ACE has sold 26,000 units to date.
How the ACE 1 works:
- A fan blows oxygen into the chamber through holes at both the bottom and the top. This drives the fire to increase in temperature until it reaches approximately 1000°C. These conditions cause the biomass to gasify.
- Then the hot gas floats up to the top, meeting more oxygen and combusting completely.
- The stove will produce as much as 5kW worth of energy, and the outside temperature, though warm after continued use, does not become hot enough to cause injury.
- When fully charged, the battery will power the fan for over 20 hours of cooking. The battery can also be used to charge a mobile device or run LED lighting and can be boosted using a solar panel.
The ACE 1 has DC and USB ports for phone charging, allowing people without access to grid electricity to charge their phones for free, reducing their costs and increasing their access to ICTs. These ports can also be used to power an LED light included with the stove. Providing basic nano-grid electricity to those who live off the grid not only has benefits at the household level, but also at the level of national development policy. In some cases (such as inaccessible or low-population areas) off-grid solutions like the ACE 1 may be preferable to extending the grid, due to the burden which maintaining electrical infrastructure places on developing countries.
The newest ACE 1 model (to be launched in 2019) includes a microprocessor, enabling it to connect and communicate with smartphones. Concurrently, ACE has developed the Android ACE app, and the combination of the two upgrades the ACE 1 to a ‘smart’ product with new capabilities such as live maintenance alerting or usage data logging. This will make it possible to monitor and record ACE 1 impact, and create unprecedented transparency into the energy consumption habits of poor consumers living off-grid, on whom little data is currently available. This advancement, paired with an upgrade in ACE's current self-reported data collection practices, will allow the company to quantify with precision the environmental and social impact of the ACE 1, as well as well as improve its customer relationship management.
Achievements: The economic impact of the product is impressive. The solution reduces fuel use of about 70 percent, saves 50 percent of costs, and drastically improves the lives of women and children, who do the majority of the cooking.
Based on data collected with 3,000 households in Lesotho, customers interviewed experience an 83% average reduction in monthly energy expenses, 95% of them have stopped purchasing paraffin, and 59% say they no longer need to spend any money on energy.
Budget: The ACE 1 is priced at $100+, but the target market cannot afford to purchase it up front. The ACE 1 is sold on a Pay-As-You-Save (PAYS) model, by which customers purchase it with a 6-9 months microloan, and then pay back the investment using the savings made on monthly energy costs. With this model, ACE is likely one of the only companies in the world that can give $2-a-day people access to a $100+ product.
PO Box 12355 Maseru 100, Lesotho Plot 24 Ha Thetsane,
Contact person: Ruben Walker
Commercial Director and Co-founder