Published: May 2, 2011

In an ongoing effort to combat poverty and global warming, students from the Center for Energy and Environmental Security, or CEES, at the University of Colorado Boulder Law School will travel to Ayaviri, Peru, on May 12 to install 15 cookstoves.

Because a full third of the world's population has no access to modern energy resources, a large majority of them rely on burning biomass (cow manure, crop residues or wood) for cooking, heating and lighting. Unfortunately, burning biomass within the home generates indoor air pollution consisting of black carbon and other particulates, which results in 2 million premature deaths annually, primarily among women and children. Additionally, black carbon is the second largest cause of global warming, according to Nature Geoscience.

The cookstoves, designed by German cookstove developer GIZ, will be assessed to determine whether they adequately meet the community needs. CEES will be educating residents on how the cookstoves work as well as illuminating their potential health benefits.

"Universal access to electricity will take a great deal of time and money, but interim energy needs can be immediately met with simple and inexpensive technologies such as cookstoves, solar-charged illumination and clean mechanical power," said Lakshman Guruswamy, director of CEES and a law professor. "These items, called Appropriate Sustainable Energy Technologies, or ASETs, can bridge the gap between capital intensive electricity and the traditional subsistence technologies of the energy poor, while also reducing global warming."

CEES first began working with the Ayaviri region in May 2010, when a team of students from Colorado Law joined engineering students from the Universidad Catolica de San Pablo to conduct a needs assessment in five communities surrounding Ayaviri, Peru. The assessment, supported by Caritas, an international, nongovernmental nonprofit dedicated to the eradication of poverty and social inequities, was based on approximately 200 interviews with community members who indicated that the most pressing concern was indoor air pollution and related negative health consequences.

The 15 cookstoves being installed will be monitored for air pollution output with a simple and inexpensive air pollution monitor designed by Russell Schnell, a deputy director at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Based on this data and the demonstrations, CEES will conduct a Targeted Needs Assessment to determine the amount (if any) that community members are willing to pay.

"Payment by community members is an important aspect of the project success, as it instills a feeling of ownership and pride," Guruswamy said. "It also increases the likelihood that the new technology will actually be adopted into community lifestyles."

Based on the 2011 demonstration and price assessment, CEES will begin work on Stage Three, scheduled for summer 2012, which will focus on providing cookstoves to any community member who wants one. This could be anywhere from one to 250 units. CEES will work with Caritas to offer a sweat equity option, whereby residents can contribute a certain amount toward their cookstoves by working on other community development projects such as irrigation improvements, community gardens and animal husbandry. Caritas and the University of San Pablo also will conduct ongoing auditing to ensure that the cookstoves are being properly used and maintained.

"The Ayaviri Project as a whole offers a replicable, integrated response to the technological and behavioral challenges of increasing energy access," said Guruswamy. "It also gives students the opportunity to understand the global impacts of issues such as International environmental law, climate change and sustainable energy that we discuss in the classroom."