Tight regulation on kerosene increases use of cooking gas

A petrol station attendant in Nyeri with a cooking gas cylinder.

Kenyan households are increasingly using cooking gas than kerosene and charcoal following regulatory and market-driven initiatives over the last decade.

While firewood remains the most common fuel, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) has risen to second with two in every 10 households in both rural and urban areas using it as the primary cooking fuel.

This is in comparison to charcoal, which only 10 per cent of the households use as a primary fuel, while about 5.6 per cent of families use kerosene as a primary energy source.

A joint report by the Ministry of Energy and the Clean Cooking Association of Kenya found that a combination of factors has led - at times pushed - more households to adopt LPG.

These include the introduction of a universal valve and the LPG Cylinder Exchange Pool a decade ago (although the latter has been scrapped in 2019 regulations), the hiking of the cost of kerosene to fight adulteration of diesel and a ban on logging that resulted to charcoal being more expensive.

“This study finds that about 64.7 per cent (8.1 million) of households in Kenya still use wood as their primary cooking fuel, followed by LPG at 19 per cent (2.4 million) and charcoal at 10 per cent (1.3 million),” said the report

“Wood fuel (charcoal and firewood) is the most commonly used primary cooking fuel with 75 per cent of Kenyan households reported using it,” said the report.

Despite the rise in popularity of cooking gas, users have to cover long distances in search of refilling points.

“Households using LPG must travel nearly twice as far (5.3km) on average than kerosene users (2.9km) even though twice as many households nationwide cook with LPG than with kerosene,” said the report.

“This willingness to travel longer distances could be due to the convenience of use but also due to the frequency of purchase. While kerosene may need to be purchased weekly or even daily, LPG refills would almost always require less frequent travel to purchase.”

This last-mile challenge is however being bridged by home deliveries, where retailers can dispatch gas cylinders to consumers on request, which is being “made possible by the ease of availability of boda-bodas that can deliver gas cylinders from the various retail points”.

The LPG market in Kenya, according to the report, has had tremendous growth over the past two decades with the number of households using LPG increasing six times from about 0.6 million to 3.7 million.

Other than the estimated 2.4 million households that use LPG stoves as their primary stove, another one million use it as a secondary fuel in their kitchens.

Among the major initiatives that have led to a surge in adoption of LPG include the 2009 regulations that lowered the barriers of access by introducing an LPG Exchange Pool that required firms retailing cooking gas to refill all cylinders presented by consumers without regard for the brand.

Owners of the brand would later claim their cylinders from their competitors. New regulations have however taken this away and an LPG user now has to get a refill from a retailer licensed by the brand owner.

Other factors that have led to growth in use of cooking gas are the packaging of the six-kilogramme cylinder that comes with a burner and grill.

Last year’s introduction of an anti-adulteration levy on kerosene pushed up the fuel’s retail prices to be at par with diesel. This has made kerosene expensive and while it may have left poor households with few options, there are those that may have afforded to migrate to LPG.

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