Project's aim

To help rural households in western China to access efficient, cleaner cooking and heating stoves




Partners involved

Impact Carbon (CAREI)


03/2008- 08/2010

Building Public/Private Partnerships to Expand Markets for High-Efficiency Household Stoves

The China Association of Rural Energy Industries (CAREI), in cooperation with the Center for Entrepreneurship in International Health and Development (CEIHD; now Impact Carbon) USA, implemented this project with the aim of helping rural households in Western China to access efficient and cleaner cooking and heating stoves. The project should helped to reduce air pollution and unnecessary fuel use, which helped to improve health and economic wellbeing. There have been pilot demonstrations, training programmes and a media campaign to raise awareness about the health and environmental advantages of wood saving stoves. In addition, a network of local stove manufacturers and related parties in China was established. 

The project was co-funded by USEPA, the Chinese Government and SEPS.


The average Chinese rural family uses biomass as their main energy source for cooking and heating. Especially in the high regions of western China, with its cold and long winters, the firewood consumption is very high - amounting to as much as 18-20 tonnes of firewood per household per year (for cooking and heating). Because of the high altitude of the regions the climate is severe and soil conditions are poor, resulting in very low vegetation growth rates. These circumstances and the current firewood consumption patterns lead to fuelwood scarcity, deforestation and land degradation in the region.

One way of improving the situation would be to introduce more efficient cooking and heating stoves, which could significantly help to reduce firewood consumption and indoor air pollution, and could also help to avoid further deforestation. However, in this part of China the market for improved metal biomass stoves was underdeveloped. Due to a lack of awareness and poor infrastructure, as well as consumer price barriers, this made the rural western region quite different from other areas in China where improved stoves have already been successfully commercialized.

In the first phase of the project, the Centre for Entrepreneurship in International Health and Development (CAREI) - together with its partners - conducted a comparative study to identify the best high-efficiency, low-emissions biomass household stove in China. The second phase of the project, which is described here, aimed to disseminate that technology to the agricultural and herding communities in the western regions of China.

The tangible goal was to increase sales of improved stoves by 20,000 in two years, which would lead to social and health benefits. Therefore, the project was designed as a combined market and subsidy approach to achieve more efficient operations, lower prices and greater market coverage. Furthermore, efforts were made to subsidise stoves through carbon finance mechanisms. Consequently, a combination of household surveys and in-home fuel use studies were conducted to establish a baseline study of the carbon savings made through the project activity.

Technology, Operations and Maintenance

The promoted stove model is the Jinqilin semi-gasifier biomass stove, which can use both unprocessed crop residues and briquetted crop residues. The fuel is manually loaded into the stove and the fire is lit at the top so that the burning process proceeds downwards, opposite to the airflow direction. In addition, holes were added on the upper part of the stove to further increase the combustion efficiency of the stove. The stove also uses a small electric fan that forces ventilation and air turbulence in order to facilitate the combustion process. Overall, the thermal efficiency of the low-emissions biomass household stove is 35-41%, which is much higher than the 10-12% efficiency of the traditional stoves.

Financial Issues

The project was a multi-sector collaboration between government entities, private stove companies and NGOs. Federal and provincial funds were made available to help the poorest farmers to afford new stoves. Activities such as market development, design, project documentation, monitoring and evaluation were financed through the project.

The average per capita income in the project area was about € 290 - 540 per year, while the retail price of the improved stove was about € 40. Approximately 15,000 of the distributed stoves were fully subsidised, while most of the others were sold at full price. The Rural Energy Offices of the Chinese government determined which households should benefit from a subsidy. They conducted an economic survey of households in the project area to identify the poorer households who would be unable to afford an improved stove without financial help.

Environmental Issues

The high-efficiency low-emissions biomass stoves that were introduced emit 50-70% less greenhouse gases, with the result that each rural household can save about 4,000 kg CO2 per year. As 74,510 stoves were distributed, 300 million kg CO2 per year could potentially be avoided. In order to profit from this reduction in emissions, the project applied for Gold Standard certification. It is planned to use the money generated from carbon credits to subsidise further improved stoves in the region.

Social Issues

By improving access to clean energy for cooking and heating, the project significantly reduced indoor air pollution, which is responsible for respiratory and other illnesses, especially in women and young children. Likewise, the project created employment and helped households to reduce the time and money that they spent on fuel, which had positive effects on the household incomes.

Results & Impact

At the end of the project the original pilot goals were all exceeded. About 74,000 households were using improved cooking and/or heating stoves. This means that, as a result of the project activities, about 220,000 people are now exposed to lower levels of indoor air pollution. In terms of employment, about 679 manufacturers (e.g., metal workers, potters, etc.) and 85 distributors were employed, and 4 new small businesses producing and marketing the improved cooking and/or heating technology were established.

The project also had an impact on the fuel source used in the region, as previously many people used coal as a cooking fuel during the warm season when no heating was required, but now they mainly use corncobs as cooking fuel. With the introduction of the Jinqilin stove, it is estimated that coal use was reduced by about 1.79 tonnes and that corncob use was increased by about 1.37 tonnes per household per year.


The project was very successful in disseminating the improved biomass stove technology in western China and there is expected to be good potential for expansion to other parts of rural China. With China's total rural population being about 140 million, and the current stoves sales being around 60,000 annually, there is still a huge market for stoves that reduce indoor air pollution, carbon emissions, and unsustainable fuel use. Further support from central government, under its mandate to improve the quality of life in rural areas, will help promote future replication of the project. Demonstration sites have already attracted the attention of municipal and provincial authorities looking for ways to fulfil the government mandate.

In addition, 16,000 educational posters and 20,000 end-user brochures on optimal stove usage were produced and distributed to the rural population at events, through schools and at points of sale.

Lessons learned

The outcome of the project exceeded all expectations. One critical success factor was the co-operation of the different stakeholders and the involvement and support of the regional and national government bodies. However, although the project was very successful some problems were discovered during the implementation process.

Due to the large number of stoves that were sold it became necessary for the manufacturers to increase their factory size and capacity, but they did not have the capital or means to obtain finance for these activities. To solve this problem, factories will need to make efforts to obtain loans and strengthen their carbon credit development. Furthermore, the quality management and after-sales service needs to be improved to ensure the long term success of the improved stove technology.

It was also discovered that the stove does not meet the heating needs of Tibetan farmers. Adjustments to the thermal performance are necessary to make the stove suitable for use at very high altitude.