InStove is a US-based hybrid social venture (non-profit/benefit corporation) that designs efficient, institutional, biomass stoves and allied technologies to sustainably serve the energy needs of poor and marginalized communities in the developing world. While most cookstove organizations focus upon domestic/household stoves, InStoves focus upon institutional stoves where orders of magnitude more impact can be achieved per unit than their household counterparts. One InStove may have the environmental impact of 100 efficient household stoves, and the economic impact is not simply in the value of fuel saved, but in the value that can be created.
While most institutional cooking is done over large wood, InStoves run on small amounts of small wood--the kind which can be sustainably gathered without cutting down trees. Additionally, InStoves are fuel-flexible and can run on any woody biomass, or upon briquettes that can be made from agricultural reside or animal waste.
Institutional Stove Solutions, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, raises philanthropic funds to donate stoves to schools, clinics, cooperatives, and other partners. These partners help build an evidence base for InStoves by providing feedback on their impacts on fuel, time, and cost savings as well as the social impacts of safe, efficient stoves on their work and lives. This evidence allows us to craft context-specific, culturally-sensitive messages to drive demand for InStoves.
Once demand is sufficient to support it (as few as 200, 100 Liter InStoves) InStove Mfg. Ltd., an Oregon Benefit Corporation, identifies a local production and distribution partner, and licenses that partner to build InStoves in country with the "Factory-In-A-Box" production methodology, which relies upon hand-tools, custom jigs, and semi-skilled labor, using mostly parts and materials that can be sourced locally at a lower cost in Ghana than in the US. Key materials--particularly precision-cut, high-temperature alloys for the combustion chambers--will be prepared at our facilities in the US to ensure quality and lower costs. Lower materials costs and lower labor costs mean that we can reduce the price by nearly half while still maintaining the same margins. This increases access to the technology, while creating livelihoods in the stove production and distribution value chains, and improving the local economy. Quality will be assured by ongoing supervision by InStove staff in-country. Stoves may be produced within the first week of the set-up of the Factory-In-A-Box, and a factory may be assembled and shipped with as little as 6-8 months of lead time. The first stoves can therefore be produced in-country in under a year.
While InStoves are currently being used (as of April, 2017) in 40 countries, InStove is focused on Ghana as a target to sustainably scale up to local production to enable widespread affordable adoption of renewable energy technology. Ghana is currently facing a wood fuel crisis nationwide: between 1990 and 2005, Ghana lost 25.9% of its forest cover, and now suffers widespread deforestation, and rising fuel costs for businesses and households alike.
In Ghana, we are building the evidence base for InStoves in agricultural processing and large-scale cooking by working with partners in women's shea butter processing and rice par-boiling cooperatives, as well as within school feeding programs. Once production is established to meet the demands of these sectors, InStoves will be made available to other sectors through private distributors and market mechanisms.