Sustainable Innovation: The Ethanol Stove

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The stove is to use sustainably produced biofuel

Many of the 1.2 million people living in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital, have a clean energy problem.

Charcoal, the main source of fuel, harvested from the old-growth forests in the north of the East African country, is slowly running out. Because the forests are receding, the cost of a bag of cooking charcoal is rising. The fuel — used in many places in sub-Saharan Africa — has other drawbacks, of course. Using it in enclosed spaces, like, say, the typical home in Maputo, leads to asthma and other pulmonary maladies. Just as importantly, the energy is not renewable: once the old forest is used up, the ravaged land can end up worthless.

CleanStar Mozambique is trying to fix the problem with a solution that has community farming, bio fuel and a little metal stove at its core.

“It is a complex design, but we think that is a strength of the project,” said Johan Melchior of Novozyme, a founding corporate partner of CleanStar.

The project’s $20 million in initial funding and support comes from investment funds (including George Soros’), Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, Novozyme and ICM. Most ambitious, perhaps, is its creators aim to make it a self-sustaining business by 2014.

“The core of our philosophy is that we want to do good by doing good business. We are not philanthropy,” said Anders Tuxen of Novozyme, who helps coordinate the project.

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