Surprises Up the Energy Ladder

Peer Reviewed
5 May 2020

Andrew Pascale, Shoibal Chakravarty, Paul Lant, Simon Smart, Chris Greig

Traditional discussions of the relationships between energy, CO2 emissions and human development capture between-country differences, but fail to expose within-country energy and CO2 emissions inequality. Household survey data offers researchers a window through which to better understand the unequal distribution of energy use and the Human Development Index (HDI) at a sub-national level. This study uses India Human Development Survey (IHDS) data to generate household consumption and emissions distributions for India in both 2005 and 2012, and consults the EORA global multi-regional input output database for sectoral intensities of India’s economy. The analysis uses HDI 2015 methodology.

Results indicate that non-solid fuel use patterns have changed little across India’s income deciles between 2005 and 2012; that total direct household energy use emissions (including non-commercial biomass but not including direct transport emissions) are surprisingly flat across both deciles and years analysed; and that indirect emissions represent the largest CO2 emissions growth area across deciles and study years. While emissions inequality has clearly increased between top and bottom deciles in the seven years between IHDS surveys, overall trends in HDI inequality between deciles are harder to identify.

Results suggest two main areas for consideration. Addressing energy poverty and pressing welfare issues connected to energy use in India, such as household air pollution from solid fuels, can be aided by an apparent emissions neutral transition to modern energy carriers. However, the wealth creation needed to sustain a transition out of energy poverty appears to be accompanied by indirect CO2 emissions growth, especially in the richest deciles. Addressing both of these challenges at the same time requires a coherent strategy that targets energy poverty and wealth creation in the poorest deciles while reducing the emissions intensity of the sectors – notably transportation – of the Indian and global economies supporting increasing household consumption.


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Sustainable Development Goals
Publication reference
Pascale, A., Chakravarty, S., Lant, P., Smart, S., & Greig, C. (2017). Surprises Up the Energy Ladder. SSRN Electronic Journal. doi:10.2139/ssrn.2943850

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Publication | 5 May 2020