(Online Course) Contemporary Issues for IAS Mains 2012: Yojana Magazine - Energy Consumption In India’s Household Sector

Yojana Magazine

Energy Consumption In India’s Household Sector: Social And Economic Dimensions

Question. Evaluate the households energy use pattern in India.

Answer: In India around half of the total non-commercial energy consumption is accounted for by the household sector (GoI, 1979, CMIE, 2001). The non-commercial energy sources include fuel wood, crop-residues, cow-dung and charcoal, among which fuel-wood is the most popular and predominantly used in the consumption of household energy. Even today with the advancement of science and technology, more than 60 per cent of Indian households depend on the traditional sources of energy for meeting their energy needs. In spite of the various Government efforts towards promoting cleaner fuels, the approach has not been very successful in bringing changes in the type of energy used, specifically for the lower income groups. In the recent past there has been a change in approaches.

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One of the notable changes is the deregulation in the petroleum sector which has encouraged the entry of private sector into the market and thus improved the availability of LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) and kerosene. However, the market is not fully liberalized. The factors like lack of mobility of commercial fuels, high cost of connection and refill, high transaction cost, and the availability of cheaper alternative fuels in the form of fire-wood and other biomass fuels appear as obstacles to quick diffusion of these fuels in the domestic sector of India. So far as pattern of household energy is concerned, it represents not only the status of welfare but also the stage of economic development. As the economy develops cleaner fuel is consumed. Consumption of household energy is expected to increase in future along with economic growth and rise in per capita incomes. Household energy consumption is also expected to vary significantly between rural and urban areas. As such, this paper aims at analyzing the energy use pattern as well as to analyse the factors that determine changes in energy use in the household sector of India. The specific research questions to be dealt in the study are as follows:

(i) what is the type of household energy consumption?

(ii) What type of dichotomy exists in household energy consumption?

(iii) What is the nature of fuel selection?

Table: Type of Energy Consumption by Indian Households (1950–2000)

Type of Fuels 1950 Percentage 1970 1990 200 Percentage Growth Rate Per Annum (%)
Fuel-wood 54.08 82.65 67.1 88.1 114 75.60 3.7
Coal/Charcoal 0.77 1.18 1.08 2.12 2.5 1.66 6.7
Kerosene 1.12 1.171 2.76 5.24 12.5 8.29 115.5
LPG - 0.00 - 1.2 6.4 4.24 35.8
Electricity 0.06 0.09 0.13 0.79 9.2 6.10 23.8
Others 9.4 14.37 8.2 6.9 6.2 4.11 -2.3
Total 65.43 100 79.27 104.35 151.8 100 3.9

Table-1 shows a decline in the share of non-commercial fuels. In 1950, the share of non - commercial fuel was accounting for 98 per cent of the total energy consumption and it declined to about 81 per cent in 2000. The data shows an increasing trend in the share of LPG and electricity from 0.06 per cent in 1950 to 10.34 per cent in 2000. The decreasing share of noncommercial fuels can be attributed to the growing demand for clean energy like LPG and electricity. Major factors contributing to these substitutions are, increasing level of urbanization, economic development and living standard (Reddy, 2003). Probably, this is the cause of lower
growth rate of fuel-wood (3.7 percent per annum)

Question. Write a short notes on the linkages of income and energy use.

Answer: The household’s income influences the pattern of energy consumption in many ways. For example it results in the increasing use of energy, shifting to clean and convenient form of energy, such as LPG, etc. As such, it is informative to analyse variations by household income while analysing the linkages between economic affluence and household energy use. However, as the Indian household survey data does not collect any information on income, total household expenditures are used as a proxy. We find that energy choices and consumption levels vary significantly by affluence level across rural and urban households. Among rural households,
the quantity of biomass energy consumed decreases with rising affluence. Use of LPG and Kerosene is found to be more among the higher expenditure deciles in rural areas. However, energy substitution (transition tomodern energy type) ismore striking with increase in household expenditure levels among urban households. In urban Indian households, the quantity of biomass energy consumed decreases with rising affluence. Its share decreases from over 72.8 per cent among the poorest to less than 2 per cent for the richest deciles. However, the quantity of kerosene at first rises for the lower deciles, but then decreases for higher deciles, suggesting that
these are used as transitional fuels. LPG and electricity consumption increase consistently across all urban deciles.

A clear transition is evident from Figure-5 with those in the top deciles clearly shifting away from biomass towards more electricity and LPG use.


The study reveals that non-commercial fuels constitute more than half of the total energy use in India’s household sector. It is also observed that in the rural sector dependence of households on bio-fuels has been observed to be falling marginally, whereas the use of LPG and Kerosene by the rural households is on the rise. In the urban sector, more and more households are observed to switch over to energy sources like LPG. These are the low and middle income groups’ people that use bio-fuels mostly. As such the study recommends the following policy measures.

  • In the rural areas people are reluctant to pay for commercial fuels as the fuel-wood can be gathered free at cost. As a result, the Government policies of subsidizing commercial fuels sufficiently so as to make it attractive will hardly yield good result. Instead forest policies might seek to induce substitution of forest fuel-wood. Such policy could aim at promoting agro-forestry and tree growing in private land. Policy intervention to this end include the provision of subsidized seedling, selection of fuel-wood generated tree species, monetary incentive for planting and maintaining trees, sharing knowledge and information with the villagers, creating awareness etc.
  • The dependency of rural households on fuel-wood can be reduced by popularizing scientific Chullhas. Improved wood stoves not only raise energy efficiency, typically by 30-50 per cent but also reduce indoor pollution by a factor of 20 to 100, to levels well within WHO guidelines. However, this type of techniques should be adopted with special care. For example, the households often find difficulties with this type of stove because certain foods cannot be cooked on it. Thus, it implies that the technology dissemination programes need to pay careful attention to local food and cooking habits. Hence, it is suggested that stepsmay be taken to renovate the scientific Chullhas tomeet the local needs and popularize it among the rural households in order to save energy.
  • The provision of stand-alone isolated small generation facilities (50 KWto 4 MW) allowing for limited distribution in the habitation areas, would perhaps be more useful for capacity addition, economy and to contain huge transmission and distribution losses. Thus, microhydel power stations are ideally suited to areas where power demand is relatively low and population is scattered. Thus, the State Governments are required to develop a suitable management for the villages and blocks to maintain the plant after setting up the project. Once the villagers particularly in high altitude areas get used to electricity it will go a long way in preventing indiscriminate felling of tree.
  • Considering the topography of the sate, itmay beworthwhile to explore other decentralized options tomeet the energy requirement . This becomesmore important taking into account that large hydro projects generally have a large gestation period and involve large investment. Solar energy has the potential for meeting energy requirement related to lighting, heating, cooking, etc. Though intermittent in nature this system could be installed in varying capacities depending upon the requirement and potential of the region. Hence towards a sustainable energy policy, the alternative options as suggested above may be implemented seriously by the Government.

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