January 28, 2015

PE Expands into New States in Darfur

Potential Energy is excited to announce the completion of 2 pilot projects aimed at expanding to new states within Darfur. Two partners, NIDAA in West Darfur and Malam Darfur Peace and Development (MDPD) in South Darfur, were chosen to collaborate in promoting and selling a total of 600 stoves to new customers in these regions. We were struck by both partners’ commitment to their clients and their positive reputations within their local communities. As we set out to do sales trials, we didn’t know what the reaction would be among new clients; the stove is a new product in these regions, and women typically have not been exposed to the technology. What we found was very promising; customers appreciated the stoves, and in many cases the demand for the stoves exceeded the supply we were able to produce.


In particular, women were impressed by the design of the stove, and the fact that it can save them up to $35 USD/month. We’re energized by the initial results of this pilot, and we’re working to expand from piloting to working with these partners to build businesses for the sale of stoves in these new regions!

January 22, 2015

Darfur Links We Like

Some of us at Potential Energy read Chris Blattman’s international development blog. We thought of him when cleaning out our files recently, where we found a bunch of great reports and articles that have helped keep us informed over the years for our Darfur Stoves Project. So, in the same style of Blattman’s “Links I liked,” we decided to list a handful of articles and reports on Darfur that we like:

Tufts University’s Microfinance Assessment Consultancy to Darfur, Sudan was a fantastic resource when planning our revolving loan fund program in Darfur. Several members of our team have a background in microfinance, so when we first explored the idea of initiating an installment payment plan for Darfuri women to pay for their Berkeley-Darfur Stoves, we started digging around for previous research that had been done on the topic. While we found a few resources on Sudan as a whole, due to years of conflict in the region, Darfur is significantly different than the rest of the country so this research doesn’t always apply. The folks at Tufts’ Feinstein International Center (in collaboration with the IOM & UNDP Sudan) are the only ones we know of who have published research specifically focused on microfinance in Darfur.

Even just a quick glance at the photos and maps in the UNEP Population Displacement and the Environment report makes it clear how crucial interventions such as fuel-efficient clean cookstoves are in Darfur. The aerial photo of one of the camps we work in, Abu Shouk, displays the barren landscape and lack of access to firewood.

FAO’s WISDOM (Woodfuel Integrated Supply and Demand Overview Mapping)’s Land Cover Mapping and WISDOM Analysis for Emergency and Rehabilitation Planning in Darfur provides an in-depth analysis of the sustainability of current wood fuel consumption in Darfur. Using high-resolution satellite images of Darfur’s land cover to assess supply vs. demand, this study revealed for example that in Nyala, the capital of the South Darfur region, the supply of wood fuel for 2011 was 52,000 tons while the demand was 366,000 tons. With current wood harvesting practices rapidly depleting resources, in addition to recommendations for sustainable forest management, WISDOM also makes urgent recommendations for fuel substitutes and widespread fuel-efficient stove programs throughout Darfur.

Sudanese clean cookstove and fuel expert, Dr. Ahmed Hood knocks another one out of the ballpark with the report: Alternative Household Cooking Fuels for Internally Displaced Persons in Darfur, Sudan, which was written for our colleagues, Practical Action. Dr. Hood assesses a wide range of fuel options, from firewood to solar to LPG in several of the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps that we work in. This is a great resource for us to revisit because our programming in Darfur is ever-evolving as the needs of our target market change.

As members of the Safe Access to Fuel and Energy initiative (SAFE), we’re always learning from our colleagues addressing household energy needs around the world. We recently found this report by Rebecca Gunnings on SAFE’s new website: The Current State of Sustainable Energy Provision for Displaced Populations: An Analysis. In addition to learning about clean cookstove programs targeting displaced populations in other countries such as Kenya and Jordan, it provides valuable insight into other energy needs such as lighting and heating, also strong contributors to toxic smoke exposure and deforestation.

January 10, 2015

We’re Hiring!

Potential Energy is recruiting for several positions. Please go to our Careers & Internships page to learn more!

December 16, 2014

Looking back on 2014

2014 has been quite a year! We’re so grateful for the inspiring work of our partners on the ground, the volunteers that have given their time and energy to our efforts, our inaugural class of Potential Energy Fellows, our supporters near and far, and everyone who has helped in some way to make 2014 a success. Before we look too far into the future, we wanted to take a moment to look back on a few of our favorite moments from the past year.  In 2014, Potential Energy:

1. Collected Early User Data in Ethiopia

Embet Hailu

As part of our randomized control trial in Ethiopia, we are working with UC Berkeley PhD candidates Angeli Kirk and Javier Rosa, as well as the Center for Effective Global Action,  to monitor stove usage and gauge the Ethiopian market’s interest in the Berkeley-Ethiopia Stove. In conjunction with our Ethiopian partners, we installed small heat sensors called Stove Use Monitors (SUMs) on market trial stoves in order to track how often the stoves are used once customers bring them home. Since the only way to benefit from using a fuel-efficient stove is to actually use it, this data has been particularly useful in helping us to gain insight and reflect on our marketing techniques in order to to ensure maximum stove usage.  This picture shows a snapshot of usage from one of our earliest customers.

 2. Launched a Fellowship Program to Explore New Markets for Expansion


Around the world, millions of families stand to benefit from clean cooking technologies.  This summer we launched Potential Energy’s inaugural Fellowship program, hiring a crop of young and inspiring leaders who traveled to West Africa to help us identify markets where there is not only a need for clean cooking, but also where, if we were to launch, we would have a high likelihood of success.  Fellows spent time in Benin, Burkina Faso and Cameroon conducting focus groups, observing cooking practices, understanding user preferences, measuring household emissions levels produced by open fire cooking and assessing our potential for impact.  All in the all the Summer Fellowship class was a huge success! Federico Bianchi, our Fellow assigned to Burkina Faso, is pictured with a group of women outside of Bobo Dioulasso.

 3. Launched a Mobile Phone Survey Program

Al Salam FGD

Working in the Bay Area exposes us to so many groundbreaking technological innovations, such as VOTO Mobile. In 2014, we started using VOTO’s cell phone survey program in Ethiopia. Our Ethiopian customers now receive brief voice-based surveys and reminders on their cell phones from Potential Energy. With a quick press of a button, customers are able to report back to us on important data such as their daily fuel expenditures, enabling us to quickly receive updates and monitor the benefits stove users experience from their Berkeley-Ethiopia Stove.

4. Expanded to New Regions in Darfur


In partnership with AECOM Sudan, we expanded our reach to new markets within Darfur, launching stove sales trials in conjunction with local nonprofit partners Nidaa and Malam Darfur Peace and Development. Under the guidance of Abubakr Mohammed, pictured above holding a stove, new users were trained on stove usage and were offered the chance to purchase the stove. In total, 600 stoves were sold during this market trial, and we are really excited by the early results. In addition, 360 households in these new regions were surveyed about household cooking practices, fuel expenditures and general demographics, helping us to understand more about potential users in these new areas.

5. We Tested Stoves on our Own


Leveraging our close partnership with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), this year staff members from Potential Energy were trained on how to become stove testers, getting certified by some of the leading testing technicians in the world.  Spending time at the lab, staffers Michelle Kreger and Debra Stein got their hands dirty testing new technologies for emissions performance alongside LBNL staff.  A Berkeley-Darfur Stove under the lab’s fume hood is pictured here.

6. Hired New Team Members

Team outing to SF_Sept 2014

At the start of the year, Michelle Kreger took on the role as our new Executive Director. Since then, we’ve grown our team as well as our Board of Directors. In 2014, PE welcomed Morrow Cater as our newest Board member as well as the following staff members: Diallo Afadhali, Mark Bonney, Maika Hemphill and Abu Bakr Mohammed. In addition to some of our long-time contributors, we’ve also had the pleasure to work with some amazing new volunteers, including Kathy Guis, Kim MacKoy and Caitlyn Toombs. Best of all, our favorite intern, Amanda Kwan left after graduating from Cal and is now back working with us as a consultant! Meet all of our team members by clicking here.

 7. Innovated Data Collection & Analysis

SUMS example picture copy

Last year, UC Berkeley PhD candidate Danny Wilson worked with us to monitor stove usage in North Darfur as part of Potential Energy’s first stove use monitors (SUMs) project. By comparing SUMs data to in-person survey responses, we were able to learn a lot about what training messages and interventions encouraged stove use (and how wanting to be polite can often cloud in-person survey responses). In 2014, we applied these learnings to our stove program in Darfur. Danny Wilson and his team presented this research and they’ve received some great recognition for their innovative approach to data analysis, which includes this amazing visualization.

8. Press Coverage

From industry publication Stanford Social Innovation Review to local broadcasts on the KQED Quest television program to national coverage (PBS Newshour), we’re so excited about the recognition we received in 2014! Click here to see our recent press coverage.

November 26, 2014

$413 Million to Boost Cookstove Activities


Last week, cookstove advocates from across the globe gathered in New York City to share ideas, inspiration, and to talk about the future of clean cooking.  In addition to great dialogue, the gathering afforded attendees the opportunity to publicly share their commitments to clean cookstoves and fuel. Representatives from more than 70 governments, investors, private sector organizations, UN agencies and NGOs publicly affirmed their commitments to improve and expand clean cooking over the next 3 years – it was a great turnout!  All-in, the pledges totaled $413 million USD.  Major pledging institutions included the US, Norway, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

This was the first time the international community has come together to publicly pledge their time, money and resources, and PE was excited to join the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and their pledge partners at this gathering.  Potential Energy’s Executive Director, Michelle Kreger, was in attendance.

With powerhouses such as Hilary Clinton (a long-time supporter of clean cookstoves) and Raj Shah (the head of USAID) in attendance, we are re-affirmed, and re-inspired, by the incredible opportunity we see before us to make a difference in the lives of our current, and future, stove users.   Michelle returned home from NYC invigorated, and ready to double down on our work and impact. We hope you feel the buzz too – great things are in store for 2015 and beyond!

September 23, 2014

PE Welcomes New Team Members!

We’re excited to welcome Mark Bonney as our newest team member! Mark writes grant proposals and assists the team with fundraising strategy implementation. With diverse experience in international non-profit and social enterprise fundraising, he is passionate about advancing development solutions in the sub-Saharan Africa and MENA regions, particularly in the health, clean energy, housing and microfinance sectors. Mark lived in Egypt from 2009 to 2012, where he helped develop and secure funding for Ashoka Arab World’s housing initiative to improve living conditions in informal communities. He also served as a fundraising advisor and grant writer for several civil society organizations in Cairo. Since returning to the U.S., Mark worked for Kiva as a foundation and corporate grants specialist and for a multi-national online education company as a project manager. Mark holds a B.A. in Political Science from Stanford University. He is also an accomplished classical singer, and enjoys learning languages, outdoor adventures, and playing golf.

Abubakr Mohammad has 8 years of experience working in the nonprofit sector. Abubakr has volunteered, and lead various initiatives and projects with institutes such as the Sudanese Natural Heritage Society, the Sudanese Museum of Natural History and the Sudanese Wildlife Conservation Society. His opportunity to work with nonprofits gave him solid experience in many fields of his interests including: environmental awareness, scientific field work, climate change and impact assessment. Abubakr is leading Potential Energy’s efforts to learn more about potential customers and test the market for the Berkeley-Darfur Stove in new areas of Darfur. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural studies from Sudan University of Sciences and Technology.

In addition to Mark and Abubakr, we recently welcomed Diallo Afadhali and Zelie Anner to PE. Stay tuned for more updates on the Our Team page of our website!

July 11, 2014

Tô, Pâte and Assidah

By Debra Stein

Greetings from Ouagadougou! I just returned from a visit to Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso’s second largest city, where I was visiting villages with Federico, PE’s Summer Research Fellow assigned to Burkina Faso.  In these villages, we conducted focus groups and “cook-offs,” where women cooked the same meal on our stove, the traditional open fire and a basic metal cookstove that is commonly found in the country. The Berkeley-Darfur Stove was very popular- women liked that their pots fit in the stove and that it stayed stable when they vigorously stirred tô, a thick porridge made of millet.

Read the rest of this entry »

June 22, 2014

Stories from a frontier market

By Federico Bianchi
Potential Energy Summer Research Fellow
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
June 10, 2014

“Bon, on y va!” – “Ok, let’s go!” This is what my collaborator tells me on a Wednesday at 2pm. It is my first Wednesday in Ouagadougou and I have been asking for the whole day to leave the office and go “on the field” (“sur le terrain”, people would say here). I am eager to meet the families that live in the outskirts of Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou and to start interviewing them about their cooking habits.

Some minutes later we leave the office. We jump on a motorbike and find our way through the traffic of the city – hard to imagine something more chaotic and scary, at least the first time you find yourself surrounded by a chaos of cars and motorbikes. Motorbikes, in particular, are everywhere. Cars are a bit less but they are not afraid of almost bumping into other vehicles to find their way. It will take me some more time to get used to this way of driving: today, I am just hoping that we will safely reach our destination.

Against all the odds, we arrive at our destination in only 30 minutes and with limited risks for our safety. We are in the so-called “Non-Loti” now. This is the suburb of the city and it keeps growing at an exponential rate. Unfortunately, it has not yet been connected to the electrical and hydraulic network. Families in this area live in conditions similar to rural zones but men and women can find jobs in the central areas of Ouagadougou.

My collaborator quickly identifies the first family that we can interview. Today we are working on defining a “baseline” of the local population in terms of health and cooking habits. We hope to understand whether our cookstoves could be interesting for these customers and if it could bring a meaningful improvement to their life conditions.

I am glad my collaborator is here with me. His name is Hanro and he works for the organization, Entrepreneurs du Monde (EDM). He is part of the “Nafa Naana” project, specialized in selling improved cookstoves and solar lighting devices to families. This organization has been incredibly supportive since I arrived: the fact that I could rely on Hanro for my interviews is only one of the many ways “Nafa Naana” has been helpful over the last days.

Hanro is probably the best person I could have met to get things done. He has experience in interviewing households in the Ouagadougou area and has worked before in the cookstove field. He speaks fluent French and Mooré (the local language). If I had to prepare a wish list for this project in Burkina Faso, meeting somebody like him would have been the top choice.

I follow him while we approach a group of women sitting in a small yard outside a house. The women are talking and laughing but, the moment they see us, they first shut up and then start laughing again: probably they are joking about me. The only word in Mooré they say that I can understand is “Nassarà”, the “White Guy”. Hanro starts answering to their jokes and, in less than 5 minutes, we are ready to start our interview. Some of the women leave the yard and the house owner starts answering our questions.

Read the rest of this entry »

April 03, 2014

Alarming news from the World Health Organization

The WHO has issued a press release estimating that 7 million deaths a year are linked to air pollution exposure.

The new estimates are based on the latest WHO mortality data from 2012 as well as evidence of health risks from air pollution exposures. Estimates of people’s exposure to outdoor air pollution in different parts of the world were formulated through a new global data mapping. This incorporated satellite data, ground-level monitoring measurements and data on pollution emissions from key sources, as well as modelling of how pollution drifts in the air.

“The risks from air pollution are now far greater than previously thought or understood, particularly for heart disease and strokes,” says Dr Maria Neira, Director of WHO’s Department for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. “Few risks have a greater impact on global health today than air pollution; the evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe.”

Read the full press release at the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

March 20, 2014

Cooking adventures with the Berkeley-Darfur Stove

Naren at our stove flat kit manufacturer Shri Hari Industries in New Delhi has been cooking up some tasty meals on the Berkeley-Darfur Stove!

“Look at Annie”, consoled missus. Does the fact that he can’t sing deter him from believing that he will one day be mistaken for Mallikarjun Mansur?”

That perked up the lad a bit. Slanderous libel, of course. I sing very very well indeed. But mother and son had a laugh and the missus, going all “awww” at my evident inability to see the humor in that, said “Lets grill some chicken”

“On the Berkely Darfur stove?” I piped up excitedly

“Why not?”

Read about Naren’s cooking adventures on his blog: