It is not every day that one encounters an invention that has the potential to solve the huge energy problem confronting the ordinary people – a cooking stove that generates electricity for millions of Nigerians not connected to the power grid.

At the sideline of the recently concluded Venture Clash Challenge in Lagos, Bounce News had a chat with the inventor of a cooking stove that generates electricity, Okey Esse.

Below is an excerpt of our conversation.

May we meet you?

My name is Okey Esse. I am a serial entrepreneur of over 12 years and an inventor of power-stove.

What is power-stove?

Powerstove is an idea that came since 2016. We saw how difficult it was for women to prepare meals and their exposure to toxic smokes from firewood or charcoal and decided to do something about this problem.

Since 2016, we have worked on three different versions of clean cookstove that suits our traditional style of cooking. Today, we have a stove that uses charcoal or any other biomass, smokeless, burns faster than cooking gas, generates electricity to charge phones, light bulbs and most importantly communicates to the users on their phones. Yes, our Powerstove can communicate.

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How does it work?

It’s a little bit of Physics. You know, the way you plug your phone charger in the car and charge it, there is no electricity in the car. It is a similar technology. We converted heat into electricity.

But what surprises people is that it is portable. This is because people know that whatever generates electricity has to be bulky and expensive. But that is our secret and why we have patented the technology.

How many units have you manufactured and sold?

We started in 2016 but we used that first year to perfect the technology. If you see our first model, it is very crude. Within that one year, we used it to iterate, get feedback and improve on what we had.

What we have now is a bit more refined. So, we ventured into the market in 2017, and we have sold roughly a thousand units of the power-stove.  

*The first model of power-stove

Where is the greatest demand coming from?

The greatest demand is coming from Middle-Belt and North Central. Meanwhile, we have focused on the Abuja market for now. This is because we do not yet have capacity to try other markets.

But with the $25,000 we have won from Cisco, we are getting more machines to improve the capacity of our biomass. This is because, the more stove we sell, the more the demand for the biomass that we get. And that is where the money is.

How long does it take you to produce one power-stove?

It takes 5 days to produce 2 stoves. That means, if we have demand for one thousand units of power-stoves, it will take about 6 and half months to produce them.

However, with this grant, we can increase our capacity to be able to produce about 5 stoves in one day. And we can increase the production of our biomass from one ton per hour to about 5 tons per hour.

*The refined power-stove 2.0

The biomass production is key to our business. In reality, there is little business in the power-stove itself. The biomass could be compared to the Microsoft printer which you get at a cheap rate, but you continue to buy their ink to keep you using it. Imagine if a user of our stove has to own it for ten years.

Take for instance, our power-stove costs about 25,000 naira, while a kerosene stove costs about 12,000 naira and people can afford to buy that cash. Now, we met a microfinance bank that sells the power-stove to the users at 25,000 naira. But when they buy it, it comes with a bag of biomass.

What is biomass?

Biomass is what is used to power the power-stove. It is the fuel for the power-stove, just like kerosene is for the kerosene-stove. It is cheaper than charcoal. It burns clearly without smoke. It is environmentally friendly.

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How much does the biomass cost?

A kilo of biomass costs roughly about 250-naira. And a family of four can use it to cook an entire day meal. And because some people when they finish cooking their first meal, they just quench it, it lasts much longer. But restaurants can leave it to run like that.

And people called Mai Shai in the north. They do not need to use their generators anymore once they have the power-stove. This is because when they boil water to make tea or cook noodles, they have electricity that lights their shops. And people who came to patronise them can also charge their mobile phones while they are eating their meal.

Talking about your grant from Cisco, what impressed them the most about your product?

What impressed them the most is how we integrated Internet of Things, IoT into the device. For the IoT part, we discovered that if we ask someone how many hours it takes them to cook in a day, they probably wouldn’t know. They can only guess.

*The power-stove 2.0 on display at Venture Clash Challenge Lagos

Now, this stove solves a global problem, which is climate change. And there are trillions of dollars for any efforts targeted at curbing climate change effect. So, basically, the IoT integration helps us to see from a mobile app or website how many minutes the user used the stove while cooking.

So, we integrated an internet-enabled sensor that measures the temperature of the stove, the Co2 emissions level, etc. It works with 2G and 3G, so despite the strength of internet connection, it would communicate.

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Each stove also has particular ID number which helps us to monitor each one. This ID number also gives it the added advantage of protection from theft.

So, we share these data with Paris Fund which then uses these data to reward users for level of Carbon monoxide saved. Once your cooking saves that, you get a credit alert on your phone, straight from them not from us. Ours is to provide the data and connect the user to them. They get the money directly into their wallet.

So, with this arrangement, the user gets money to keep buying biomass from us and we make more money while they stop felling trees for firewood, thereby saving the climate. It’s a win-win for everyone.

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