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2017-02-24 | project

Impacts of electric stoves on air pollution and women’s welfare in rural India

This project aims to identify the causal impacts of electric induction stoves on levels of particulate matter and other outcomes in rural India. The study will provide valuable data on when and how often rural households use these technologies, and whether their use under real world conditions is sufficient to achieve the air pollution reductions that are required to produce significant health benefits. These analyses will contribute timely evidence to a global debate in the public health and environment and development communities, and will help inform national priorities on the potential promise of electrification and electric stoves.


Poor household air quality in low income settings remains a major global problem, largely because of continued high reliance on solid fuels and highly polluting cooking technology. Lack of access to reliable electricity, meanwhile, impedes adoption of potentially transformative household technologies that enhance productivity, health, and well-being, especially of women. Within this context, electric cooking technologies (such as electric induction stoves) are particularly important to investigate, because carbon-free electricity is the only scalable and sustainable clean energy source known today.

Therefore, the primary goal of this project is to develop plausible estimates of the causal effect of electric stoves on air pollution, time savings, and other measures of improved well-being and sustainable development among rural Indian households, with a particular focus on women. Specifically, we aim to:

  1. Rigorously evaluate the social cost of unreliable electricity access in terms of reduced use of electric induction cooking stoves and increased exposure to toxic air pollution, additional solid biomass fuel collection time and its burden on women in particular, and to describe how ownership of electrical appliances varies with the reliability of electricity supply;
  2. Disseminate policy-relevant findings and insights to key policymakers and the broader policy community in collaboration with our implementation partners, Dharma Life and Prayas.

Our approach will be to estimate how air quality changes as a function of unplanned (plausibly exogenous) grid outages, comparing households who do and do not own induction stoves using a difference-in-differences methodology. We will identify outages using novel electricity meters that record outages in real-time, and measure PM2.5 levels using optical sensors that take and store readings measured inside the home at one-minute intervals. In addition, we will use secondary data sets from India to analyze how ownership of electrical appliances varies with the reliability of the grid in different locations.