On 18th April, India achieved the goal of bringing electricity to every single village in its vast territory. Prime Minister Narendra Modi triumphantly announced it in a tweet, calling it “a historical day for the country’s development”. Universal access to energy was a pillar of the Prime Minister’s party manifesto during the 2014 campaign, and was set as a priority when the government took office.
Population without electricity access in India
According to data released by New Delhi, all of the 597’464 Indian villages surveyed are now electrified. A village is electrified when no less than 10% of its households and public buildings, including schools, is connected to the electric grid. From 2000 to date, almost half a million people gained access to electricity in India; 99% of them were able to do so through the extension of the power network. The government is aiming to achieve universal access by 2018, improving the life of 230 million people. This is not an easy challenge, especially in a vast and geographically diverse country like India, but the benefits will be huge, as the International Energy Agency (IEA) explains. First of all, electricity will substitute candles, kerosene and other polluting fuels, enabling savings and better health. Furthermore, electricity will increase the number of production hours, with positive effects on education, households’ income and entrepreneurship.
India is undoubtedly a success story, but according to IEA estimates, 670 million people will still have no access to electricity in 2030, 90% of whom in sub-Saharan Africa.
Number of people without electricity access
One challenge has been overcome, many others are still open, and chief among them is access to clean kitchen implements: nearly 780 million people in India depend on biomass for their cooking. Here too, the trend is positive: in May 2016, the Indian government launched a plan to supply free connections to poor households. “We believe that access to clean cooking fuel is very important to improve living standards. It reduces indoor pollution and the hardship of collecting biomass and burning wood”, explained Modi. “Women will especially benefit from this: they will have more time for their personal development and for any economic activity. In India, we supply free LPG connections to women from poor households. Our objective is to supply clean LPG connections to 80 million poor families”. Nearly 36 million new households have been connected in the last two years.