The Alliance has developed strategies that both improve utilization of biomass as well as strengthen supply chains and markets for cleaner fuels over time.

Addressing all the Alliance's Impact Areas with Fuels

  • Environment - Sustainable raw material sourcing, improved processing methods and increased distribution of clean burning fuels reduces these burdens on the environment. 
  • Health - Scale up and sustained use of clean burning fuels are an opportunity to dramatically reduce the harmful smoke emissions and exposure causing the global burden of disease.  
  • Humanitarian - The selection – and often provision – of alternative fuels in refugee/IDP situations is vital for securing energy access and meeting household and institutional needs.
  • Livelihoods - Participation in the fuel value chain offers new pathways for local economic empowerment such as income generation from production, marketing, distribution, and sales of clean fuels.
  • Women and Gender - Gender-informed fuel enterprises provide income-generating opportunities, empower women and promote gender equality.

Five Pillars

People traditionally have had a limited choice of fuels, primarily due to availability, affordability, and accessibility. Because the fuel supply chain touches so many environmental, economic, social, and health issues, the impacts and opportunities are complex.  Our fuels strategy starts from understanding the challenges, benefits, and negative impacts of different fuel choices. This foundation then supports work to improve processing, distribution, and consumer awareness to create a sustainable and thriving market for fuels.

  • Improving analysis and evaluation to support partners to select the best fuel options and optimize production and distribution.
  • Knowledge dissemination and partnerships to drive informed decision-making about fuel options
  • Processing to increase cleanliness and efficiency
  • Scaling up production and distribution to increase the options available to consumers
  • Consumer awareness of the benefits of transitioning to cleaner fuel options 

As much as possible, the fuels strategy going forward leverages work already done by the Alliance and other key partners. It builds upon existing research, strategies, methodologies, tools and results. Each activity is undertaken with an eye towards applying and lessons learned for multiple Alliance partners and additional countries where conditions are similar and the results could have the greatest impact.         


Biogas is a methane rich gas produced through the anaerobic (without air) digestion of organic wastes. It can be generated from animal and kitchen wastes, as well as some crop residues. For cooking and other thermal household tasks, biogas can be used directly in conventional low-pressure gas burners. Biogas is used for many different applications worldwide. In rural communities, small-scale digesters can provide biogas for single-household cooking and lighting. Large-scale digesters can utilize biogas for electricity production, heat and steam, chemical production, and vehicle fuel.
Stove Types used

Biomass (Ag. Residue, Processed Biomass, etc.)

Biomass is the oldest source of energy known to humans, and includes wood, food crops, grassy and woody plants, residues from agriculture or forestry, and the organic component of municipal and industrial wastes. 3 billion people still depend on biomass fuels for their home cooking and heating. The renewability of biomass use depends on the source, whether it is collected, grown as a crop specifically for energy use, or by using biomass residues from plants with other applications. Processing the biomass often facilitates advanced performance as a fuel.
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Charcoal is charred wood, which has lost all moisture and most volatile contents in the production process. It is an energy-dense, light-weight, easy-to-handle, and convenient fuel, which burns without producing much visible smoke other than during lighting. These properties make it a preferred fuel especially in urban and peri-urban areas. However, the process of turning wood into charcoal usually wastes over half of the available energy in the wood.

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Coal is a black, solid, carbon-rich material found underground and is among the most prevalent fossil fuels. In the household energy sector, coal is used for cooking and heating in countries with abundant coal resources. The World Health Organization recommends that unprocessed coal not be used as a household fuel, due to carcinogenic emissions and toxic elements such as fluorine, arsenic, lead, selenium, and mercury which are not destroyed by combustion.

Crop residues

Crop residues, including include straws, stems, stalks, leaves, husks, shells, peels, etc., are the non-edible plant parts that are left in the field after harvest and excess residues are increasingly being viewed as a valuable resource. In the developing world, most agricultural residues that are used for fuel are in their natural state with some pre-treatment like drying and cutting. Compared to wood-fuels, crop residues typically have a high content of volatile matter and ash, lower density and lower energy values. Densifying the residues improves their properties for cooking.
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Electricity is a clean and efficient at the point of use. The overall lifecycle cleanliness and efficiency depends on the energy source (e.g. coal, gas, hydropower, nuclear, oil, solar, wind). Using electricity for cooking requires connection to the country’s grid system, which varies widely between rural and urban areas in developing countries.
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Ethanol is a clean liquid biofuel that can be made from a variety of feedstocks including sugary materials such as sugar cane, molasses, sugar beet, or sweet sorghum; starchy materials such as cassava (manioc), potatoes, or maize; or cellulosic materials such as wood, grasses, corn stover and other agricultural residues. Many new feedstocks are under development, such as algae, kelp and other wild or non-cultivated crops.

[Link to Ethanol Fact Sheet]

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Kerosene, also called paraffin in some countries, is a liquid product of crude oil with a high energy density. Kerosene is widely used in urban households for cooking, heating, and lighting. However, the World Health Organization discourages household use of kerosene, because of the high risk of burns, poisoning, and deaths.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) is a clean-burning, portable, sustainable, and efficient fuel. LPG is a co-product of natural gas and crude oil production and usually consists of a mixture of propane and butane for standard heating and cooking purposes. Its unique properties make it a versatile energy source – it is a multi-purpose energy with many applications, is portable, and can be used virtually anywhere in the world.

[Link to LPG Fact Sheet]

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Natural Gas/Methane


Pellets / Briquettes

Briquettes/cakes or pellets are processed (or densified) biomass material of different sizes and shapes made from agricultural waste, recycled materials, or other materials such as saw dust. These processed fuels are an increasingly common fuel source in developing countries. Pellets or briquettes/cakes can typically be used with many improved biomass stoves. Some stoves are designed specifically for these fuels.

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Direct solar thermal energy can be used to power solar cook stoves, which can save time, work, money, and combustible fuel in suitable circumstances. Unlike solar photovoltaic energy, which requires expensive PV cells to convert sunlight into electricity, solar thermal energy can be captured directly with a solar cooker. Solar thermal energy can also be used for solar hot water heaters, sterilizers and food driers.
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Wood is still a major source of biomass energy for people in developing countries. In the context of cooking, the term 'wood fuel' is also used and refers to any energy source that comes from woody biomass. Fuelwood, or firewood, consists of any unprocessed woody biomass used to fuel a small fire, most often for cooking or warmth.