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Access to energy services by the poor in India: Current situation and need for alternative strategies

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Poor and inadequate access to clean, reliable and affordable energy is now considered a major concern for sustainable development. India houses about a third of the world's population without access to electricity and about 40% of those without access to modern energy. This article considers India's challenge in this area, examines the energy access situation, and analyses measures pursued to improve it. The article argues that the current focus on rural electrification is unlikely to resolve the energy access problem, due to the low penetration of electricity in the energy mix of the poor. The article also argues that strategies based on energy market reform, promotion of renewable technologies and correct price signals are unlikely to succeed in changing the situation, as acceptance of this policy prescription is rather low. Instead, a bottom-up, holistic, long-term approach is suggested that integrates energy access with economic development, and relies on selective market intervention, local resources and local governance.

Keywords: Access; Alternative strategy; Energy; Poverty; Public policy

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: V. S. Ailawadi, Advisor, Tata Teleservices Limited, Former Chairman, Ele-ctricity Regulatory Commission, Haryana., Email: 2: Subhes C. Bhattacharyya is Senior Lecturer, Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 4HN, Scotland, UK., Email:

Publication date: February 1, 2006


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