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Issues in International Energy Consumption Analysis: Electricity Usage in India’s Housing Sector

November 2014


In its review of top engineering achievements of the 20th century in the United States, the National Academy of Engineering listed electrification as the top achievement. 1 Outranking other achievements such as the automobile, the Internet, and even space travel, this placement helps underscore the profound impact of electrification on everyday life and shows the remarkable effort it takes to provide electric service throughout a country.

With such a large and complex task, it is understandable that different countries are at different stages of electrification. In the United States, electric service is nearly universally available. Electric service in many developing countries is not available for large portions of citizens and does not always produce reliable electricity for those connected to the grid. Modernization seems to indicate that electricity use will continue to grow.

India offers a unique set of features for studying electricity use in the context of a developing country. First, it has a rapidly developing economy with high yearly growth rates in gross domestic product (GDP). Second, it has the second-largest population in the world and is likely to have the largest population in the future. Third, its electric system is maturing—with known difficulties (outages, shortages, issues with reliability and quality) that are characteristic of a developing country.

This article focuses on electricity use in the residential sector of India and discusses key trends and provides an overview of available usage estimates from various sources. Indian households are an interesting environment where many of India’s unique features interact. The recent economic gains correlate with rising incomes and possible changes in living standards, which could affect electricity or other energy use within households. Additionally, the maturing electric system and large population in India both offer opportunities to study a range of interactions between electrification and electricity usage in a developing country.

Relationships between these factors are important for energy planning in India and around the globe. Just as electrification was a huge undertaking in the United States and transformed everyday life, these effects could be compounded in India due to the country’s size and massive population. As other countries mature economically and technologically, energy needs may change in ways similar to what has and will happen in India.

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