Powering-Up Greener Kitchens: How Electric Cooking is Battling Climate Change

Powering-Up Greener Kitchens: How Electric Cooking is Battling Climate Change

Did you know the average American household generates over 6 tons of carbon dioxide a year? While transportation often takes the spotlight, our kitchens are surprising contributors, especially when fueled by traditional gas stoves. A recent study by Stanford University found that gas cooking in California alone releases enough methane annually to equal the emissions of 500,000 cars.

It gets worse when it comes to developing countries. The fragrant aroma of spices and sizzling sounds from the pans are a common sound in any Indian kitchen. But the hidden cost of this culinary melody can be a smoky reality. As per the findings of the India Residential Energy Survey (IRES) 2020, approximately 85 percent of households in India have access to LPG, which can be credited to recent governmental initiatives, notably the PMUY scheme. Despite these efforts, those belonging to the underprivileged community do not get their cylinders refilled and succumb back to the old practices of relying on traditional methods like firewood because of cost barriers.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that indoor air pollution from these methods is responsible for over 1 million deaths in India annually.  This isn’t just a health crisis; it’s an environmental one too.  Incomplete combustion from biomass cooking releases harmful pollutants like black carbon, contributing to climate change and impacting local air quality.

In such a situation, the emergence of electric cooking, clubbed with RE power solutions, especially decentralized solar, as a sustainable alternative is progressively sealing a permanent place in the fight against climate change for reducing emissions and improving air quality in households. Electric cooking is powering up greener kitchens and a more sustainable future.

Emissions Cut

Electric cooking stands out as an environmentally-friendly option due to its lower emissions compared to traditional methods. Traditional stoves rely on burning gasses and fossils, releasing harmful pollutants like methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. These emissions contribute significantly to air pollution and climate change.

In contrast, electric cooking appliances, such as induction cooktops and electric ovens, rely on electricity as a power source, resulting in significantly lower emissions. By utilizing electricity generated from renewable sources like solar, wind, and hydroelectric power, electric cooking can further minimize its environmental impact, making it a greener choice for conscientious consumers. The exact reduction depends on the source of electricity in your region, but the potential is substantial.

A gas stove, when powered by the average US grid, emits approximately 1,640 kilograms of CO2 equivalent per year. In contrast, an electric stove connected to the same grid significantly reduces emissions, emitting only around 470 kilograms annually. The environmental benefits become even more pronounced when utilizing an electric stove with a grid powered by 50% renewable energy, where emissions drop to a mere 235 kilograms per year.

Solar Cooking: Democratising the Sunshine

One of the most promising aspects of electric cooking is its potential to integrate with solar panels, creating a truly sustainable cooking experience. In a way, it also democratizes electricity because unlike other sources of energy required for cooking (cooking gas, fossil fuels, and even biomass), solar energy doesn’t have to be bought. Solar panels harness the abundant energy of the sun to generate electricity, offering a clean and renewable alternative to fossil fuels.

The one-time investment or distribution at no cost to the underprivileged beneficiaries can provide them with free power to cook for anywhere between 10-30 years. In fact, many deprived, remote and tribal areas, lack access to reliable electricity grids or face challenges associated with affordability, access, and environmental degradation, solar panel cooking systems offer a lifeline. These systems provide a decentralized energy solution, allowing households to generate their own clean electricity and reduce reliance on expensive and polluting fuels.

The integration of solar panel cooking systems with electricity grids enhances their efficacy and accessibility. By connecting to local or national grids, communities can leverage surplus energy generated by their solar panels, further reducing their dependence on non-renewable energy sources. This integration also facilitates energy storage and distribution, ensuring a reliable and consistent power supply for cooking needs.

A shining example is ‘Surya Nutan’ – an indoor solar cooking device developed by India’s state-owned IOCL (Indian Oil Corporation Limited). Indigenously developed as a product of need, is a stationary, rechargeable and always kitchen connected indoor cooking solution capable of catering cooking needs of Indian households.

‘Surya Nutan’ – literally meaning ‘novelty of the Sun’ utilizes solar energy to power its specially designed heating element. This heating element converts sunlight into heat, which is then stored in a thermal battery for controlled cooking. Unlike traditional cooking methods, Surya Nutan operates continuously during cooking sessions, owing to its simultaneous charging and discharging mechanism. With the ability to perform tasks such as boiling, steaming, frying, and making chapatis, this cooking system is suitable for a family of four. It features a modular design, allowing for customization based on household needs.

Currently, pilot trials of Surya Nutan are being conducted in various regions across India, including tribal and rural areas of Madhya Pradesh, Leh, Lakshadweep, Gwalior, Udaipur, and Delhi-NCR.

More than Emissions and Environment

Gas stoves contribute to indoor air pollution by releasing nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide. Electric cooktops eliminate this risk, creating a healthier environment inside homes, especially for women and children. This has time and again been proven by various studies on different scales that cutting indoor air pollution by switching to cleaner cooking has resulted in direct decrease in cases of eye-related ailments, respiratory issues, and more.

Additionally, solar panel cooking systems promote energy independence and resilience, empowering communities to withstand disruptions in traditional energy supplies and natural disasters. By investing in solar panel infrastructure, underprivileged communities can break free from the cycle of poverty (wasting hours a day in collecting firewood, for example, that can be otherwise used in more productive things) and environmental degradation associated with traditional cooking methods, while simultaneously contributing to climate change mitigation efforts.

Electric cooking also breaks the cycle of fossil fuel demand and deforestation caused by natural gas, safeguarding our forests. Advancements in energy efficiency, such as induction cooktops, minimize wasted energy by directly heating cookware using magnetic fields.

Electrifying Future

The future of electric cooking is promising, with innovative technologies like ‘Surya Nutan’ poised to further minimize environmental impact. Smart appliances offer efficient cooking by optimizing energy usage based on recipe requirements. Advanced cookware materials enhance heat distribution, boosting energy efficiency. Emerging waste heat recovery technologies capture and repurpose heat from electric cooktops, adding to sustainability efforts. These advancements demonstrate ongoing progress in making electric cooking more environmentally friendly. By transitioning to electric cooking, individuals can contribute to a healthier planet, improve indoor air quality, and embrace sustainable culinary practices. Let’s empower our kitchens for a greener future, where each delicious meal supports environmental sustainability and wellbeing.

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