Modelling Worldwide Polluting Household Energy

At least 2.4 billion people in low- and middle-income countries rely on polluting fuels like wood or coal for cooking, causing dangerous levels of household air pollution attributed to 3.2 million deaths per year by the World Health Organization.

Researchers in the Statistics and Data Analytics group work with the WHO on an ongoing basis to estimate worldwide use of different fuels for cooking, using an advanced Bayesian hierarchical model they developed called the Global Household Energy Model. The WHO uses these estimates in monitoring two key Sustainable Development Goal indicators: ‘Mortality rate from the joint effects of household and ambient air pollution’ (3.9.1) and ‘Population with primary reliance on clean fuels and technologies’ (7.1.2). These estimates also feature prominently in the 2019, 2020, and 2021 editions of Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report.

Recent Developments

Cooking is one major household energy need, but much of the world relies on polluting fuels for heating. The true scale of this problem is unknown as there are no worldwide estimates. A household could use electricity for cooking, but if they heat their home at night using an open fire, they are exposed to health-damaging levels of pollution not currently accounted for in global monitoring and tracking mechanisms. A recent investment from the University’s EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account is enabling a deeper collaboration with the WHO to develop the first worldwide estimates of polluting fuel use for household heating.