By Zoë Carruthers, Marketing and Communications Executive at Energy Saving Trust, Co-Secretariat of the Efficiency for Access Coalition
Fosera has been working to deliver clean energy access since 2011. The organisation initially focused on delivering lighting products for off-grid areas, but has since transitioned into developing off-grid appliances. This includes the development of their solar powered e-cooking device, which received funding from the Modern Energy Cooking Services (MECS) programme through the Efficiency for Access Research and Development Fund.
The solar e-cooking device will be used to cook beans and rice and function like a slow cooker. The device will be powered entirely by the sun with an energy stored battery system. This means that it can be used in the evening and throughout the night. This device will help customers make cleaner and more efficient choices for cooking.
In this interview, Catherine Adelmann, Founder and CEO of Fosera, explains why the organisation is working to create more climate resilient appliances. She also discusses how their e-cooking device can benefit the environment and end-users.
1) Fosera has a range of climate-resilient appliances. What motivated your company to create these appliances?
Fosera started in 2011 as a company that wanted to provide affordable and clean energy for people worldwide. Initially, it was really for lighting, but over the years we have evolved. Our long-term vision is to bring the same household services found in a modern Western household to people who do not have access to the grid. We would like to create more affordable, cleaner and sustainable products compared to those available now.
2) You recently won funding from Modern Energy Cooking Services (MECS) to develop a solar e-cooking device. Why are off-grid cooking appliances important?
Cooking is important, as it has such an impact on people’s lives, but it is challenging because it consumes so much energy. Energy for cooking depends on biomass fuels in many areas and it is not climate friendly. We wanted to this project to address this and so we started to develop a rice cooker and a bean cooker for East Africa. Cooking also depends on people’s cultural background. Every country and every region have their own traditions on how to prepare food, and of course cooking devices need to reflect that.
3) How has the Research and Development Fund and MECS funding helped Fosera develop the appliance and grow your company?
It’s a huge project for us, so we needed to do a lot of research. It’s also difficult to predict how the market will respond to this device as it is very new. The funding has really helped us mitigate risk, step into something new and try it out. Hopefully, we will have a successful product by the end. If we didn’t have this funding, we wouldn’t be able to do this project because there would be too much risk around it.
MECS’ network is also extremely valuable, as there are so many experienced people who are doing similar research. They have been able to share knowledge with us that we otherwise wouldn’t have access to.
4) What social and economic benefits could the e-cooking device have for people living in off-grid areas?
Cooking is still predominantly a woman’s task. In rural areas, women and girls spend a lot of time collecting firewood. This means they are exposed to smoke and black carbon when they use this fuel to cook. Indoor air pollution is a big issue, so we hope this device can really improve people’s health.
However, we also want the device to help contribute towards advancing gender equality. Using this device will hopefully mean that women and girls spend less time collecting firewood. As a result, they will have a lot more time to focus on other tasks. This could be spent on tasks that can help increase income.
The e-cooking device could also help people increase their nutritional intake. In Myanmar, people will traditionally cook rice until it is 75% done and give the rice water to the pigs to feed them. Then they will put fresh water back into the rice. The problem with this is that most of the rice’s nutritional value is lost in the water, so maybe our e-cooking device could convince people to cook their rice a bit differently.
5) Looking ahead, what can the off-grid appliances sector do to facilitate climate change mitigation and adaptation?
In general, there are already a lot of solar home systems available. If we want to encourage the usage of appliances, I think the next logical step would be to make appliances more efficient.
Another important aspect is interoperability. In Europe and the USA, there is a universal plug that enables you to connect devices to different systems. It would be great if we could have the same for the off-grid appliance sector. If solar home systems were standardised along with off-grid appliances, appliances would be cheaper and more accessible for consumers.
It should be our long-term goal to provide a variety of high-quality appliances, so people don’t say, “Solar home systems are just an intermediate solution.” We want to be able to say, “We can give you the same, or maybe an even better service!” Whether delivered through solar home systems or wind systems, we want to change people’s perspectives so they aspire to gain access to clean energy, as opposed to a connection to the electrical grid. I think we can only achieve that if we have the same range of appliances that are available for the grid.
Ultimately, no one said, “I would like to have a socket in my house.” People say, “I would like to have a washing machine or a dishwasher or a fridge.” The socket itself is useless, so you really need the appliance for it.
This piece was produced for Climate Resilient Appliances, a communications campaign that seeks to demonstrate how affordable, energy-efficient appliances can contribute to a green and resilient economic recovery.