M Ramesh

India’s efforts in providing energy access to those without it have come in for praise by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

“India is clearly a success story,” say Bruce Murphy, IEA India Programme Manager, and Hannah Daly, World Energy Outlook analyst, in a commentary onenergy access. They said that since 2,000 around half-a-billion people have gained access to electricity in India “with political effort over the last five years significantly accelerating progress”.

The commentary comes against the backdrop of the Indian government’s announcement of April 28that the country had achieved its goal of providing electricity to every village in India. “This is one of the greatest achievements in the history of energy,” say Murphy and Daly.

Their comment-note syncs with the observations made by IEA in its World Energy Outlook 2017 report that India’s growth was on course to achieving “access to electricity for all” by2020, which is “a colossal achievement”. It noted that the pace had accelerated in recent years, with the country adding annually 40 million people to those with access to electricity, since 2011.

Cooking fuels

The experts note that India is taking the lessons learnt from providing electricity access to a “related problem”, access to clean cooking fuels. Around 78 crore people in India depend on biomass for cooking, but the country is making progress.

Almost 3.6 crore LPG connections have been made since the government launched a scheme in May 2016 to provide free connections to families living below the poverty line.

The World Energy Outlook 2017 report had similarly noted that “the share of the population relying primarily on biomass for cooking fell to 59 per cent in 2015 from 66 per cent in 2011. By 2030, the promotion of LPG and improved biomass cookstoves by the government means that more than 30-crore people gain access to clean cooking facilities, but still more than one in three people remain without it”.

Globally, nearly 300 crore people are forced to cook using wood and other fuels that produce smoke, resulting in 28 lakh premature deaths each year – twice more than the number of deaths related to malaria and AIDS combined.