Affordability of clean cooking technologies key to securing universal access to clean cooking

The reinstatement of VAT exemptions on renewable energy products in the Finance Act 2021 is a laudable achievement and demonstrates government commitment to achieve universal energy access by 2030. However, to achieve universal access to clean cooking by 2028, Kenya’s revised target, the exemptions need to go beyond VAT exemptions on denatured ethanol, biogas and sustainable fuel briquettes. The Government of Kenya should consider and provide for: VAT exemption on Clean and Improved Cook Stoves and import duty exemptions on denatured bio-ethanol cooking fuel.

75% of Kenya’s population uses solid fuels as their primary source of cooking with 68% using wood and 7.8% paraffin, and 23.9% use LPG for cooking (KNBS 2019 Census report). The National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) 2018-2022 identifies the transition to clean cooking as priority climate action.

Access to clean cooking for every home in Kenya must be an urgent priority as it mitigates respiratory illnesses, improves maternal and children’s wellbeing and reduces death from exposure to Household Air Pollution (HAP) emitted from the dirty solid fuels many Kenyans rely on. Clean cooking solutions such as ethanol, biogas and electricity have the potential to reduce harmful emissions, increase efficiency, and improve health and livelihoods, especially for women and children.

Kenya is a trendsetter in the renewable energy sector and has achieved great milestones. There are a few companies who have achieved great strides in the sector including: KOKO networks on ethanol clean cookstoves, Burn Manufacturing on Improved Cook Stoves and Sistema Bio on biogas appliances.

KOKO supplies clean bioethanol cooking fuel and a modern 2-burner KOKO Cooker. KOKO delivers clean, modern, affordable, and safe ethanol cooking fuel and cook stoves. It has sold over 300,000 clean stoves across Greater Nairobi, with customers able to access clean and renewable bioethanol from any “KOKO Fuel ATM” in their neighbourhood.

KOKO provides access in neighbourhoods, partnering with a network of small shopkeepers (KOKO Agents). Denatured bioethanol for clean cooking can be purchased as low as KES 30, or KES 179 to refill the reusable KOKO Canister provided with each Cooker. This makes KOKO Fuel one of the most affordable cooking solutions available in the market.

SIstema Bio offers a high quality prefabricated modular biodigester package that includes a full suite of biogas appliances and connections which are easy to install and use. These patented high efficiency biodigesters receive organic waste and transform into renewable biogas and a powerful organic fertilizer. The model incorporates an affordable payment plan that ensures its accessibility to many people.

In addition, Burn manufacturing as well produces improved and clean cookstoves in Kenya not only creating employment but also mitigating the negative effects of HAP. Models such as those adopted by KOKO, Burn and Sitema Bio among others are some of the models enabling the delivery of clean cooking products in the country. These solutions are providing alternatives to the use of kerosene and firewood for cooking.

Government policy on tax and duty needs to support these creative industries who are able to deliver innovative products. Such companies showcase innovation and disruption of business as usual to achieve universal access to clean cooking.

Kenyans need to deliberate and act with speed to secure the availability of affordable, safe, efficient, convenient clean cooking solutions for all. Kenya loses an estimated 21,560[1] people to respiratory ailments which often trace back to exposure to Household Air Pollution. Clean cookstoves reduce the emissions of climate pollutants as opposed to fossil fuels which generate emissions contributing to climate change. Using clean cookstoves reduces the reliance on wood, thus over time contributing to reduced forest degradation.

A study conducted by the Clean Cooking Association of Kenya (CCAK) in 2021, found that VAT on cooking products may raise KES 48.6 billion million through to 2030, mainly through VAT on LPG, however, this tax would generate double the costs i.e., KES 94.6 billion in negative socio-economic impacts, in addition to the negative impacts on employment. This number is derived from the net savings from stove and fuel purchases by households, the value of time losses resulting from longer cooking and fuel collection time, and the environmental and health damages.

The Ministry of Energy (MoE) has demonstrated commitment to the sector through the Energy Policy, 2018 and the Energy Act 2019 which provide for promotion of renewable energy specifically, clean cooking. The MoE has also worked with county governments to develop the county capacity for energy planning with clean cooking at the top of the agenda. The intention of MoE is to develop sustainable markets which deliver clean and affordable solutions through development of appropriate policy frameworks, and targeted programmes to support increased uptake of clean cooking solutions. (Kithinji D., MoE)

While the sector actors recognise that payment of tax is a duty that all Kenyans have, it is crucial to accelerate adoption of life-saving clean cooking solutions by removing the taxes or duty on products so that they can be made even more affordable. Supporting the growth of an industry that can reduce mortality and improve the onset of respiratory ailments should be a priority for the government. In addition, through manufacturing plants and distribution businesses, companies in the sector pay corporate taxes and contribute to PAYE. The alignment of Kenya’s taxation framework with the vision of the MoE would support the delivery of clean cookstoves for all.

This article was prepared by:

Dan Kithinji, Ministry of Energy Director, Renewable Energy – Bio Energy
Mariam Karanja, Clean Cooking Association of Kenya (CCAK), Acting CEO
Mary Githinji, Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF), Policy and Advocacy Manager

[1] Government of Kenya (2018). National Climate Change Action Plan (Kenya) 2018-2022.
Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Nairobi, Kenya

[2] Accessed in November 2021

[3] Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP). 2020. The State of Access to Modern Energy Cooking Services. Washington, DC: World Bank. License: Creative Commons Attribution CC BY 3.0 IGO

[4] Accessed in November 2021

[5] Kenyan Ethanol Cooking Fuel industry masterplan officially launched – HapaKenya Jun 4 2021

[6] Kenya Ethanol Cooking Fuel Master Plan, April 2020

[7] Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP). 2020. The State of Access to Modern Energy Cooking Services. Washington, DC: World Bank. License: Creative Commons Attribution CC BY 3.0 IGO