New perspectives on multiple fuel use: Energy flexibility in household cooking solutions in Tanzania

Peer Reviewed
28 June 2024

Lars Kåre Grimsby, Elisa Puzzolo , Kirsten Ulsrud, Daniel Pope , Mikkel Vindegg, Fernando Rubinstein, Remidius D. Ruhinduka , Karina Standal , Borgar Aamaas


There is a tendency to approach multiple fuel use mainly as a problem. This has limited how it is understood and addressed. This article uses a mixed-methods approach to advance understandings of multiple fuel use. We apply social practice theory to analyse multiple fuel use through a survey (n = 354) and 32 qualitative interviews in peri-urban Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. We find multiple fuel use with charcoal to be common, mostly in combi nation with LPG. Cooking solutions are combined in a complementary manner for their material qualities, but also by social factors. Multiple fuel use enables effective use of different energy types, saving money, coping with low and fluctuating incomes, and securing household energy supply. Flexibility also helps women navigate time constraints and multiple responsibilities, cook for larger families, maintain food culture, and make nutritious food affordable. Characteristics such as income level and variability, housing type, family size and children’s age, are analysed as social differences influencing cooking patterns. We find multiple fuel use to be more than simply “stacking” of new fuels: it is an expression of competence and innovation. Efforts for change must build on holistic understandings of people’s lived realities and should acknowledge their competent ways of manoeuvring difficult life conditions to a greater extent. Continued use of polluting cooking solutions through multiple fuel use is a barrier to clean energy transition, but solutions are more likely to succeed if recognising the multiple reasons and benefits from practicing multiple fuel use, rather than focusing on its negative impacts.

Sustainable Development Goals
Publication | 5 July 2024