India’s energy programme is anti-poor and carbon-intensive

“Still Waiting” report highlights decentralised energy as sustainable, climate-friendly, development solution for aam aadmi

Press release - November 17, 2009
NEW DELHI, India — Greenpeace today released a report – “Still Waiting” – which reveals that despite growth in electricity generation – and increasing carbon emissions – the rural poor continue to be deprived of electricity. The report challenges the government’s energy model and recommends a decentralised energy mix as a solution to overcome social injustice and mitigate climate change.

The report compares the electricity supply scenarios among rural and urban areas in five states in India (1). All villages covered in the report had power supply for less than 12 hours a day while cities and towns had supply between 22 and 24 hours. "India's rural population is suffering due to poor quality of supply or no supply even in areas that officially have electrification," said Shankar Sharma, author of the report. "Urban areas have almost 100% electrification, and some areas are even reaching the per capita consumption levels of developed countries. This is a case of sheer social and energy injustice. India needs to change its energy plans, or "Electricity for All" will only remain a promise," he said.  

The current electricity production model in India is extremely carbon-intensive, emitting more than two times CO2 per kilowatt-hour than in the EU. Electricity is responsible for about 58% of India's CO2 emissions related to energy (2).   

The report highlights how the grid-based centralised electricity generation system has failed to meet the basic energy needs of the majority of India's rural population. "The government tries to justify the demand for a larger carbon space to enable development of the poor. However, even after 62 years of Independence, the centralised, grid-based model has not delivered to our rural population," said Vinuta Gopal, Climate & Energy campaigner, Greenpeace India.  

Civil society groups from around the country which discussed this report and participated in seminars on India's energy situation have opined that the Government must bring in policy changes to ensure green and sustainable energy access to people through a decentralised approach. They also expressed their views against fossil-fuel based energy production and instead demanded government to invest in, research, and develop renewable energy sources.  

"The government's Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutkaran Yojana (Rural Electrification Programme) is failing to meet its objectives. Whether it is large dams, nuclear power plants, or coal-fired thermal power plants, the high social costs are borne by rural India, while the benefits go to the cities. A fossil-fuel based centralised electricity generation plan has huge economic, social and environmental impacts. It is an inequitable and unsustainable pathway. Decentralised energy generation, on the other hand, can make our villages the power houses of the future and reduce India's carbon emissions," Gopal said.  

A renewable source-based electricity generation model drastically reduces GHG emissions and ensures power to the poor. Decentralised energy systems include rooftop photo voltaic solar panels, solar water heaters, and community-based biomass and wind turbine systems.  

"To achieve social justice and ensure climate change mitigation, India must adopt a decentralised energy model based on renewable sources," said Ms.Gopal. "If the government wants "Power to All by 2012" to become a reality, it must start protecting the interests of the poor and not the rich," Gopal said. 

For further information, contact

Ankur Toby Ganguly, Communications Manager +91 98453 73818

Seema Javed, Sr. Communications Officer +91 99100 59765

Vinuta Gopal, Climate and Energy Campaigner +91 98455 35418

Shankar Sharma, Consultant, Electricity industry +91 94482 72503

Notes to Editor

(1) The study was conducted in Orissa, Bihar, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. In each state, a tier A and tier B city, and three villages were surveyed

(2) World Resources Institute