EME 444
Global Energy Enterprise

Domestic Energy Issues

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India's Current and Future Challenges in meeting Electricity Demand

The reading below presents an interview produced by the National Bureau of Asian Research for the U.S. Senate India Caucus.

The National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan institution founded more than 20 years ago by a private endowment. NBR's mission is to "conduct advanced independent research on strategic, political, economic, globalization, health, and energy issues affecting U.S. relations with Asia. Drawing upon an extensive network of the world’s leading specialists and leveraging the latest technology, NBR bridges the academic, business, and policy arenas."

NBR disseminates its research through briefings, publications, conferences, Congressional testimony, and email forums, and by collaborating with leading institutions worldwide. NBR also provides exceptional internship opportunities to graduate and undergraduate students for the purposes of attracting and training the next generation of Asia specialists." You'll also find NBR on Facebook and LinkedIn.

The U.S Senate defines caucus thus: "From the Algonquian Indian language, a caucus meant 'to meet together.' An informal organization of Members of the House or the Senate, or both, that exists to discuss issues of mutual concern and possibly to perform legislative research and policy planning for its members. There are regional, political or ideological, ethnic, and economic-based caucuses." The Senate India Caucus is a 38-member bipartisan group created in 2004, which serves as a forum to discuss bilateral issues, strengthen US-India commercial ties, and advocate on behalf of the Indian-American community.

To Read Now

Visit the National Bureau of Asian Research and read an article written by Tom Cutler (with Clara Gillespie) entitled "How the United States, India, and China Can Lead the Way." 

Cookstoves and International Development

According to the World Health Organization, "an estimated 700 million people in India still rely on solid fuels and traditional cook stoves for domestic cooking."  Almost all of them use the traditional cook stove called a "chulha."  There are different styles of chulhas in use in India, but the traditional models all share the characteristic of using an open fire without a chimney indoors. As you can imagine, having an open fire inside of a home can (and does) present problems for occupant health!  Please watch the first 3:30 of the video below for an idea of how chulhas are used. You are of course welcome to watch the whole (12:49) video, but that is optional.

Click for a transcript of "What's cooking in India" video.

PRESENTER: Much talk of air pollution focuses on what's happening in cities and around them. Even in villages far away where the known pollutants like vehicles, like the construction, like the big factories, are not seen around. There is a source of pollution, and it is coming out of homes like these. So in this episode we focus on what's cooking inside, what it's doing to our atmosphere, and even impacting climate change.

Blending old world charm with new age technology, Hyderabad has something for everyone.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

[CAR HORN HONKS]

[TRAFFIC NOISE]

Over the past decade, the City of Pearls has marketed itself aggressively as an IT city, attracting people from across the country and IT companies the world over.

But some 50 kilometers away, a burning reality makes 21-year-old Somlata choke and cry every morning and evening. Somlata struggles with the daily ritual as she settles down on the floor in a tiny soot-covered kitchen to light the chulha.

[CONVERSATION IN BACKGROUND]

WOMAN: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

PRESENTER: What happens when you use it?

WOMAN:

PRESENTER: Despite visits to the doctor and medication, the cough and chest pain wrack her. Somlata's mother faced the same problem before her. The family of 10 depends on agriculture to make a living. The men till government land to grow chilis, cotton, and rice. On their way home, they pick up wood from a forest. Somlata stacks the sticks in the kitchen and uses them as firewood. The activity costs her her health, not to mention, it jeopardizes the safety of her whole family.

DR. SANDHYA: [? Belia ?] and [? Konta ?] are about 10% of the population, like quarter of the census we have [INAUDIBLE]. We be suffering from one or the other signs of respiratory infection. They'll start from a mild sign, just an uneasiness. In some of us actually, such an accidents mostly there, because everything that was really dry.

We are from a developing country. We can't just go like everybody will have a [INAUDIBLE] house. So the [INAUDIBLE] and all, they'll be getting fired. They'll be catching fire and major accident [INAUDIBLE].

PRESENTER: We have found the co-relation to be how much [INAUDIBLE].

The family is part of a study of 29 villages in Telangana, focusing on chronic diseases and the causes within homes. The study is being conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

SANTHI BHOGADI: Mostly like for the last seven years, we have been exclusively looking at child development and their problems leading to cardiovascular diseases. Now we have moved on to looking at the air pollution impacts on their health. So we are looking at the post-natal exposure.

PRESENTER: So what is the level of awareness among people here?

SANTHI BHOGADI: People I guess in the rural villages is only like the 40% of people who might be having the LPG. And like 20% are aware that they know [INAUDIBLE] is available and could not afford for that. And that is 20% of the people that don't even know that some facility, kind of a better fuel system, is available for cooking.

PRESENTER: Using biomass as fuel impacts not just health, it's the single biggest source of air pollution in rural India. Biomass refers to any organic matter, such as wood, agriculture, waste, or even animal dung. While it's cheap, it releases large quantities of smoke and particulate matter that impact both human health and the environment.

According to the government of India's 2011 census, an estimated $142 million rural homes-- that's almost 85% of total rural households-- depend on traditional biomass fuel for cooking. 45% of total rural households do not have electricity. They use wood and kerosene to light up homes.

This makes India the largest consumer of firewood and biomass. Greenhouse gases emitted by such fuel, along with other sources of pollutants, add up to gigantic proportions, making India the third largest carbon emitter in the world after the United States and China. According to the World Health Organization, 4.3 million deaths occur globally from indoor air pollution each year.

China accounts for nearly 1.5 million deaths and India close to 1.3 million deaths every year, due to smoke from cooking, heating, and lighting activities.

BRIAN SMITH: There's a lot of attention on HIV/AIDS, malaria, family planning, and very little on this issue. In fact, globally there are-- the WHO estimates that there are over 4 million deaths annually attributable to household air pollution. So that's actually more than HIV and malaria combined.

PRESENTER: But LPG connections don't come easy in villages like Tamapur. Few houses approved by the [INAUDIBLE] have one. Others like Sumalata's family are still awaiting a connection.

[HORN]

But in neighboring Rachalut village, a woman, Sapunch, has made all the difference. Of the 1,000 homes here, 90% have an LPG connection. She approached a local [INAUDIBLE] after she suffered health issues due to continued use of the chulla.

SAPUNCH: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

PRESENTER: As for the 2011 census, LPG penetration in rural India is only around 13%. While 50% households in the country own televisions, only 28% in both rural and urban India have LPG access. But where there's availability, affordability plays a key role in rural India. Wood is often free and a gas cylinder comes at a price.

Though Bala has had an LPG connection for 22 years now, she still prefers using the chulla despite the fumes, the smoke, and the heat.

BALA: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

PRESENTER: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

BALA: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

PRESENTER: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

BALA: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

PRESENTER: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

BALA: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

PRESENTER: It's this mindset that field workers like Krishna find hard to change, whether it's in Telangana or Hariana. Bala, who does not know how old she is, has little knowledge of what the smoke can do to her and her children's health, apart from the cough and burning of eyes, let alone the impact of the air she breaths.

NOULEHARIKRISHNA: [INAUDIBLE], many, many people are dying. And we don't know what is the reason behind that. So first we thought there is a lack of supplementation, lack of food, water. So we succeeded in that manner. Even though the people are dying, here the pollution is a major role in their life.

So in this 28, 29 years, most of the people like, we see the ratios lagging. So some 32, 72/38 ratio. The most of the people are cooking on the wood itself. Even if we are trying, don't opt for this cook. They are saying it is our tradition, so how can we change like that?

We are saying that it is harmful for you. And they are saying that, oh, no, no. We are traditionally following the things.

PRESENTER: The doctor at a tiny private clinic near the village says 40% of the villagers come to him with respiratory problems. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

MOHAN SINGH: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH].

PRESENTER: Breathing problems aside, studies also link air pollution to stillbirths. A WHO report based on a study found that consistent exposure to solid fuel smoke can cause low birth weight and stillbirths. The study concludes saying that although the body of evidence is still relatively small, the findings are consistent with studies on exposure to outdoor pollution. 

To View Now

Let's take a look at an example of how international development aid can be used to address the problem of unhealthy indoor air in India.

  • Go to Carbon Neutral at www.carbonneutral.com. Feel free to browse around.
  • Click "Projects" at the top of the page.
  • Find the project in Southern India called "India Improved Cookstoves."
  • View the project summary page. Download the Fact Sheet and read through it.

Advances in Off-Grid Development

As indicated by the IEA and Tom Cutler above, lack of access to electricity is a major issue in India, particularly in rural areas. But as you'll see in the video below, energy security requires more than simply having electric service is not always enough. Please watch the (6:00) video below for an eye-opening look at what many Indian residents must deal with. This is a video by The Council on Energy, Environment, and Water, a non-profit in Southeast Asia. In 2015 they released a report called Access to Clean Cooking Energy and Electricity: Survey of States, which is based on a recent survey of six Indian States with the intent of determining the (lack of) access to - you guessed it - clean cooking energy and electricity. You are welcome to read the report, but it is not required.

Click for a transcript of "The Access film" video.

NARRATOR: Energy access has many facets. It goes beyond having an electricity or an LPG connection. Households care about hours of supply, reliability, quality, affordability, and even the legal status of their electricity connection. Similarly, households make choices for cooking energy based on the mix of fuels available, their cost, and the convenience of use.

To understand the true picture of energy access in rural India and issues with diverse attributes, the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water, and the Department of Political Science Columbia University conducted the largest survey of its kind in India. The study spanned six states, covering 51 districts, 714 villages, and almost 8,600 households, spending a year's worth of time on the ground, and collecting more than 2.5 million data points.

Having energy access is not a simple yes or no answer. Variations in availability, quality, convenience, or affordability mean that each household could progress or regress along several stages of electricity or cooking energy access. We call these stages tiers.

The results from our survey indicate that a majority of households remain in the bottom-most tier for electricity access, and the picture when he works when we look at cooking energy access.

Of all the electrified households in Bihar, 64% still use kerosene as the primary lighting source. Only 11% of the households who use the [INAUDIBLE] suggest they find it convenient and easy to use. CEW's research helps to identify the nuances and bottlenecks which hinder access to modern energy. This is the first step. We hope to continue such service, and help prioritize actions for improved energy access and fulfill millions of aspirations.

SPEAKER 1: [SPEAKING HINDI]

SPEAKER 2: Actor.

SPEAKER 3: Cricketer.

SPEAKER 4: Doctor.

SPEAKER 5: Army.

SPEAKER 6: Dancer.

SPEAKER 7: [SPEAKING HINDI] 

To Visit Now

India by-and-large has good solar resources, which can help alleviate some of the energy access issues.  Visit and explore d.light, you'll use this for your assignment. Besides having the best name EVER, this company's leadership was named Social Entrepreneurs of the year 2014!

To Read Now

From the IEEE Spectrum, read "Innovative Direct-Current Microgrids to Solve India's Power Woes."