Potential Energy

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Bringing life-improving tech to people in developing nations



Headquarters: Berkeley, CA
Established: 2007
Impact Areas: Sudan, Ethiopia
Type: Non-profit/NGO
Energy Sectors:
  • Power source: Biomass Power
  • Power use: Cleaner cooking
Business Model Types:
Staff Size: 3 full time, 1 part time, 10 volunteers
Annual Budget: $500,000
Major Funders: Blum Center for Developing Economies and Sustainable Products and Solutions Program at UC Berkeley, USAID Department Innovation Ventures; Sonneva Corp’s Slow Life Trust.
Awards: 2007 Popular Science Breakthrough Award for the Berkeley-Darfur Stove to Ashok Gadgil, PE founder, and Christina Galitsky

2010 E-Bay Humanity Calls top prize given to Darfur Stoves Project



Energy Products/Services

Target Market

  • Potential Energy focuses in parts of sub-Saharan Africa where there is an acute firewood shortage and where fuel represents more than 25% of total household expenditure.


Potential Energy

Revenue Streams

  • Sales of cookstoves
  • Grants and donations
  • Carbon credits

Value Proposition

  • Because Potential Energy focuses intensely on the user-centered design approach to deliver fuel-efficient stoves, it can boast a 100% adoption rate.
  • PE’s stoves require as little as 1/4 the amount of firewood and cook food in as little as 1/10 the amount of time as traditional three-stone fires.
  • Partnering with local community organizations allows for swift and effective distribution.
  • Cookstoves are sold on a rent-to-own model. This makes the product affordable to most women.

Problem Addressed

  • In sub-Saharan Africa, there are 100 million households without access to clean cooking technology.
  • Conflict in Darfur, which flared up in 2003, makes it one of the most dangerous places in Africa for women to go collect firewood. This creates an even more pressing market for fuel-efficient cookstoves.

Where They Are Now

Impact to Date

  • 135,000 displaced persons helped
  • 22,476 stoves distributed in Darfur
  • $33 million of firewood costs saved



  • 2009 Launched assembly shop in Darfur employing 12 people
  • 2011 Distributed 20,000th stove in Darfur
  • 2012 Awarded $1.5M grant from USAID Development Innovation Ventures

Growth Plan

  • 2013 Begin manufacturing and selling stoves in Ethiopia
  • 2013 Diversify product offerings to include other cooking solutions
  • 2014 Launch stoves project in 3rd country
  • 2015 Build 2nd assembly shop in Sudan

How They Deliver

Product Sourcing & Design

  • The Berkeley-Darfur stove was designed by engineers at the University of California, Berkeley.
  • The cookstoves are stamped into flat kits in Mumbai. Flat kits are pre-assembled parts specific to a certain design, like the boxes you’d expect to purchase at Ikea.
  • The flat kits are assembled into cookstoves by refugee camp residents in Darfur.
  • Plans to expand to Ethiopia include in-country manufacturing.


  • Potential Energy partners with local community organizations to distribute its stoves in Darfur.
  • This makes operations run smoothly, as groups working in Darfur have already established relationships and have a sense of the community.

Revenue & Affordability

  • Potential Energy requires only 1/4 of the price of the stove up front and allows its customers to pay the rest over the course of four months.
  • Families in Darfur spend about 33% of their income on fuel wood (about $660/year), which means that this stove is affordable.
  • With the reduced fuel that the Berkeley-Darfur stove requires, families can save 16% more every month, or about $354 per year.
  • Final assembly is done locally in Darfur: Potential Energy employs refugees living in camps to turn flat kits from India into ready-to-use stoves. This provides job opportunities and gives locals a source of earned income.


  • Potential Energy is funded by a combination of grants, loans, and earned income from product sales. Financial sustainability is a goal associated with entry into the market in more socio-politically stable countries in Africa.


  • Potential Energy is preparing to enter the market in Ethiopia in 2013, and a third country in Africa in 2014. This is expected to be an easier market to work in than Darfur, and Potential Energy hopes to do all its manufacturing locally as it expands.
  • Another goal for 2013 is to diversify product offerings beyond the Berkeley-Darfur stove.
  • Potential Energy aims to open a second assembly shop in Sudan by 2015.

Social Impact

  • Rigorous user surveys and statistical analysis is done to keep Potential Energy acutely aware of how their product is being used and what its impact has been.
  • PE measures its impact in the reduction of harmful emissions, firewood savings for families, and firewood collection time reduction (which very much translates into the time women spend endangering themselves by leaving refugee camps to search for wood).

More Resources

Online Resources

Contact Information

Potential Energy
2150 Allston Way, Suite 300
Berkeley, CA 94704

( 1-510-848-8486