Whenever you see ridiculously high rates quoted for green energy usage, it’s normally because the use of biomass (wood, farm waste) in the developing world has been rolled into the figures. Generally, this makes a nonsense of the statistics because – in this context – biomass is being used in anything but a green way. In many countries, a common practice is to tear down trees, bury them to create charcoal, and then burn the charcoal for cooking. It’s brutally inefficient – 97% of energy is lost during the process – and charcoal creates crazy amounts of smoke. By 2030, 58% of forest degradation in the DRC (per Burn Design Labs) will be due to logging for fuel.
For the past 15 years, Peter Scott – of Washington’s Burn Design Lab – has been handing out cooking stoves across the developing world. His design uses 43% less fuel on average than existing models and creates no smoke. He now sells them for $15 each, mostly in African countries. In Kenya, around half of income goes to fuel, so the stoves have a 6-8 week payback period.
His ‘elevator pitch’ was overwhelmingly voted the audience favorite at last week’s Fortune Green Brainstorming Conference. To date, he’s been backed by social entrepreneurs at the Paradigm Project, but he’s now raising a $1.5mn VC round on the back of a targeted $8mn in revenue over the next 5 years. Scott (you can follow him on Facebook here) claims that the Paradigm Project is seeing 4x returns from his project, primarily owing to the carbon financing that it enables, so this should be an interesting company to watch in the impact investing space.