Expanding electricity to the homes of 650 million people in India over the past 30 years had minimal direct impact on the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study published in Nature Climate Change.
Although many humanitarian and development organizations have stressed the importance of improving electricity access in low-income countries, it has been unclear how this would impact overall emissions levels.
An analysis of trends in India between 1981 and 2011 shows that expanding household electricity access by roughly 45 percent contributed only 3 to 4 percent to the nation’s overall growth in carbon dioxide emissions. When the indirect effects of greater electricity access, such as increased wealth and consumerism, are taken into account, household electricity use raised India’s emissions by 11 to 25 percent over that period, the study found.
Although the emissions increases are less than expected, it’s worthwhile to invest in low-carbon energy sources, the study notes, since they have additional benefits related to air quality, health, and energy security.