Wireless sensors linked to climate financing for globally affordable clean cooking

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Three billion of the world’s poorest people mostly rely on solid biomass for cooking, with major consequences to health1 and environment2. We demonstrate the untapped potential of wireless sensors connected to the ‘internet of things’ to make clean energy solutions affordable for those at the bottom of the energy pyramid. This breakthrough approach is demonstrated by a 17-month field study with 4,038 households in India. Major findings include: self-reported data on cooking duration have little correlation with actual usage data from sensors; sensor data revealed that the distribution of high and low users varied over time, and the actual mitigation of climate pollution was only 25% of the projected mitigation; climate credits were shown to significantly incentivize the use of cleaner technologies.

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C2P2 was initiated by Project Surya, an international collaboration between University of California, San Diego, Nexleaf Analytics and The Energy and Resources Institute. The primary funding for this work was provided by L. and M. McQuown, with additional funding from Qualcomm Wireless Reach, UK DFID, Beneventures Foundation, J. and E. Frieman, and C. Kennel & E. Lehman. Project Surya was started by funding from National Science Foundation (J. Fein) and incubated at UNEP beginning 2009. We are indebted to M. Lawrence whose comments significantly enhanced the clarity of presentation. In addition we thank M. Lawrence for suggesting the field survey. We acknowledge M. Lukac for developing the WiCS. We acknowledge G. Dalai, B. Dash, M. Singh, A. Mohd, L. Singh, the staff of Saunta Gaunta Foundation and the TERI field team for stove and sensor installation, beneficiary engagement and data collection. The data for Fig. 1 were collected as part of a study led by S. Pattanayak. The focus group instrument was designed with B. Augsburg. J. Ross supported the data analysis, and E. Wu and S. Maltz helped edit the paper.

Author information


  1. Nexleaf Analytics, Los Angeles, California 90064, USA

    • Tara Ramanathan
    • , Nithya Ramanathan
    •  & Eric Graham
  2. The Energy Resources Institute, New Delhi 110003, India

    • Jeevan Mohanty
    •  & Ibrahim H. Rehman
  3. University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093, USA

    • Veerabhadran Ramanathan


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N.R., V.R. and I.H.R. designed the original version of this study. All authors contributed to refinement of the original design and conception of the field study. I.H.R. led the field study; J.M. and T.R. collected data in the field; and J.M. led the payments to women. T.R. and N.R. led the sensor deployment; and T.R., N.R. and E.G. conducted the data analysis. T.R., N.R. and V.R. took the lead in writing the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Nithya Ramanathan.

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