Energy poverty affects many Indians and is an important issue for the Indian government. The number of households with access to electricity has risen over the past couple of decades, but access is still far from universal and the availability of modern cooking fuels and technologies is still limited, especially in rural areas. We use an energy development index, based on access to electricity and cleaner cooking fuels and on overall electricity generation per capita, to emphasise the disparity in energy poverty across India and relative to other developing countries.
There are still some 412 million people without access to electricity in India. In all three WEO scenarios, the number of people without access declines, but it falls much faster in the High Growth Scenario. In that scenario, all households in India have access to electricity in 2030. In the Reference Scenario, the electrification rate in 2030 in India is 96% but nearly 60 million people in rural areas will still lack access.
At an investment cost of $41 per person, it would cost some $17 billion to connect all those without electricity today to the central grid. But gridbased electrification is often not available to remote villages and households, because of the high cost of expanding the network. Diesel generators, mini-hydro, wind turbines, biomass gasifiers and photovoltaics, or a combination of these, could be more economic.
The number of people relying on fuelwood and dung for cooking and heating declines from 668 million in 2005 to 395 million in 2030 in the High Growth Scenario, 77 million fewer people than in the Reference Scenario. About 22% of the population would still rely on these fuels in India in 2030, even with higher growth. According to the World Health Organization, the use of fuelwood and dung for cooking and heating causes over 400 000 premature deaths in India annually, mostly women and children. The concentration of particulate matter in the air in Indian households using biomass is over 2 000 microgrammes per cubic metre, compared to the US standard of 150. LPG and kerosene subsidies have been very ineffective in improving the welfare of the poor, particularly in rural areas. The current subsidy scheme benefits most richer households, mainly in urban areas, and has, for the most part, failed to shift fuel consumption patterns away from biomass in poor households. It is estimated that 40% of the subsidies for LPG and kerosene go to the richest 7% of the population.