Energy authorities ignite ridicule over ‘super’ wood-burning stove

The Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency promotes use of Tao Maha Setthi or “super” wood-burning stoves as a solution to high cooking gas prices. (Photo: The Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency’s Facebook page)

The Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency’s promotion of “super” wood-burning stoves as a solution to high cooking gas prices has drawn ridicule on social media.

The #เตามหาเศรษฐี (Tao Maha Setthi, roughly translated as millionaire’s stove) was trending on social media after the department under the Ministry of Energy introduced this “super” wood-burning stove as a way to save money amid high cooking gas prices.

The department posted two images of the stove on its Facebook page on Tuesday with a message “Today, the department wants to introduce a cooking stove with high efficiency, a super wood-burning stove that was developed to replace ordinary stoves available in markets. This super stove provides 29% more heat than ordinary stoves. If households shift to use this super stove, Tao Maha Setthi, they could reduce costs by 500-600 baht per household per year and also reduce household use of LPG gas”.

The department then waxed lyrical about the stove’s outstanding characteristics. “It’s slim and light-weight, offers high heat, and uses 30-40% less charcoal than ordinary charcoal stoves,” it said. “It fits 9 sizes of cooking pots (from pots Nos 16-32), emits no smoke or toxic gas from incomplete burning and lasts more than 2 years.”

The post drew ridicule and numerous laughter stickers from netizens. One Facebook user commented “Is this a school student’s project?”  Another one said “It makes me laugh so much I cry.”

Department chief Prasert Sinsukprasert said on Tuesday the super wood-burning stoves were introduced as an alternative for low-income earners and helped reduce costs.

On Wednesday, the department posted a list of factories producing the stoves on its Facebook page, with prices ranging from 200-250 baht each.

However, a lecturer in biology and science at Chulalongkorn University argued that super wood-burning stoves did not provide a viable alternative for cooking.

Jessada Denduangboripant posted a message on his Facebook page on Wednesday, saying infrared or induction cookers can save 40% more energy than gas stoves. 

The lecturer said he was not convinced that super wood-burning stoves do not emit smoke, as the department claimed, since they still need wood and coal for heating, and people should not use them in poorly-ventilated spaces.

Super wood-burning stoves also take more time to heat than gas stoves, and prices for a bag of coal had recently increased from 30 to 35 baht, he added.

There must be a misunderstanding because while super wood-burning stoves were more efficient than conventional wood-burning ones, they cannot replace gas stoves, Mr Jessada said.

He explained that 1 kilogramme of coal can produce 6,900 kilocalories, while a gas stove using 1kg of gas can produce 12,000kcal. A kilogramme of coal is 17 baht, while a 15kg of cooking gas is 363 baht, or 24 baht per kg. 

He concluded that gas stoves remained more efficient than “super” as well as normal wood-burning stoves.

The Energy Policy Administration Committee (Epac) has decided to gradually raise the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which is used as household cooking gas, over the next three months.

The LPG price, which currently stands at 363 baht per 15-kilogramme standard cylinder, will rise to 378 baht next month and continue to increase to 393 and 408 baht in August and September respectively, said permanent secretary for energy Kulit Sombatsiri, who sits on Epac.