Hari, Lakshmikanth (2); Nathan, Hippu Salk Kristle (1) (2017). 'Energy Poverty and Quality of Life in India - how are they related?' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Cape Town 2017.


A poor quality of life is a cause and consequence of energy poverty. Poor people worldwide lack access to modern energy services like electricity and clean cooking fuel (Diaz-Chavez et al., 2015). This reinforces a cycle of deprivation, limiting the means of improvement in living
conditions and livelihoods diversification for the poor; at the same time the poor end up spending a substantial share of income in unhealthy and unsafe energy services (IIASA, 2014).

Of the 1.2 billion people deprived of electricity and 2.7 billion people lacking access to clean fuel worldwide, 95% are from developing Asia or sub-Saharan Africa (IEA, 2016). Among all
countries, India has the largest number of both income and energy poor people. Overall, it has 18% global population share (UN, 2015) and 33% share in global extreme poor (MDG, 2014).
Approximately two-thirds of households in India use either firewood, crop residue, dung cake, or charcoal for cooking, and approximately one-third of households are deprived of electricity
(Census of India, 2011).

Energy services are required for provision of basic human needs such as food, water, health care, education, and shelter, and other needs like transport, communication, agriculture, industry, etc. (Reddy, 2002; Najam and Cleveland, 2003; IEA, 2004). In spite of the significance of energy services, universal energy access has been a case of missing priority till recently. Barring some discrete individual efforts from the likes of Prof. A.K.N. Reddy of India or Prof. J. Goldemberg of Brazil, universal energy access was not on global agenda; so much so that it could not figure among the Millennium Development Goals (Halff et al., 2014). Only in 2002, IEA’s World Energy Outlook report assessed energy poverty. Realizing this missing priority, there has been some recent amendments: In 2012, UN celebrated ‘international year for sustainable energy for all’. Energy was included as a goal among SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals); Goal 7 reads as: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all (UN, 2015).

Under this backdrop, The empirical aspect of this proposal examines the correlations between energy poverty and quality of life. In literature, energy-income correlations at country level have been explored indicating a linear relationship (WEO, 2004). However, the energy-quality of life correlations have not been very straight forward. Analyses of longitudinal data from developed countries confirm that additional per capita energy consumption add little to quality of life (Mazur, 2011). In general, higher level of quality of life is associated with higher energy access; however, same level of energy accessed has significantly different quality of life values (Iyer, 2013), which necessitates a detailed study.

The importance of study on energy poverty comes from the more more fundamental and it has to do with the fact that access to energy is not only an outcome of development, but also a means to the same. Compared to income, which, as per Amartya Sen’s nomenclature, is a ‘resource’, energy access would be a ‘capacity’, and in this sense, energy access is more relevant for policy makers and implementers of development (Halff et al., 2014).

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