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Do we have options for overcoming challenges regarding energy for cooking in rural developing countries?
Access to modern energy services remains a challenge to rural households of developing countries. In previous decades, many policies have been developed, and several programs have been implemented by governments and donor organizations to provide improved energy services. However, many of these programs were unsuccessful and problems regarding energy for cooking remain unsolved. The purpose of the current study is to identify the main challenges, and to recommend alternative sustainable options for improvement. This study focuses on the main challenges attributed to availability of renewable energy resources, technology adoption and socioeconomic factors determining the accessibility of an improved energy system. The analysis shows that renewable energy resources are able to provide electrical energy in abundance. However, it will not be possible to connect the majority of households to the central system in near future. Furthermore, connection to the central system is also unlikely to solve all their cooking energy issues. Installing biogas on a family scale, or providing improved cooking stoves based on common forest biomass are also not likely to solve the problems. Alternative energy sources and systems should be identified, otherwise, energy for cooking will remain a challenge. Improved biomass burning stoves may provide a better alternative if the biomass comes from a tree planted on marginal and degraded lands. Alternatively, biogas could provide an efficient and improved energy source to meet cooking demands when income generation activities are integrated. System integration requires an enabling policy that focusses on both income generation and energy provision, leading to households’ livelihood improvement.