Improved electricity access has little impact on climate change

Improving household electricity access in India over the last 30 years contributed only marginally to the nation's total carbon emissions growth during that time, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

"Energy access is fundamental to development: it brings improvements to all aspects of life, including education, communication, and health," says IIASA researcher Shonali Pachauri, who conducted the study.

While increased energy access is widely agreed to be an important goal for development efforts, such as the UN Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, the climate impacts of increased access to electricity have been unclear. The new study is the first to examine the impact of electricity access on using two sources of retrospective data.

"This study shows that the of expanding access are in fact very small," says Pachauri. However, she adds, expanding low-carbon energy technologies in developing countries would bring many co-benefits beyond climate mitigation.

Pachauri used India as a case study because while the country still lacks electricity access for much of its population—around 400 million people—it has vastly increased access in the last 30 years. From 1981 to 2011, household electricity access in the country improved from around 25% to between 67-74% of the population, an increase of approximately 650 million people.

"India is at a similar stage to many other developing countries in terms of energy access" says Pachauri, "So we believe that these findings will be applicable on a broad scale to other developing countries."

Using two data sources, the study found that improved electricity access in India from 1981 to 2011 accounted for approximately 50 million tons of CO2, or 3-4% of the rise in total national CO2 emissions.

Since electrification also tends to lead to increased wealth and participation in the economy, it can also lead to additional increases in emissions from indirect energy use through consumption. Pachauri found that when she took these factors into account, household electricity use would account for 156 to 363 million tons CO2, or 11 to 25% of emissions growth in the country. However, even with increased electricity use, Indian households still use less electricity than Chinese households, and less than 10% of households in the United States.

Researchers say that even though the emissions growth from expanded energy access is small, low carbon energy sources have additional benefits for developing countries and should be encouraged. Previous IIASA research including the 2012 Global Energy Assessment has shown a broad array of co-benefits from expanding low-carbon, technologies.

Pachauri says, "Low-carbon energy sources bring improved health, efficiency, and can also bring benefits to the economy and employment. And if international climate policies are introduced later, more investment in low-carbon energy sources would mean that developing countries are not locked-in to fossil fuel power and higher costs in the future."


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Researchers estimate a cost for universal access to energy

More information: Nature Climate Change DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2414.
Journal information: Nature Climate Change

Citation: Improved electricity access has little impact on climate change (2014, October 19) retrieved 22 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2014-10-electricity-access-impact-climate.html
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Oct 19, 2014
The new growth will be cleaner still, owing to alternatives and renewables.

Oct 19, 2014
The new growth will be cleaner still, owing to alternatives and renewables.


Sure we can just ignore that it was built with mostly with low energy specific coal and that they burn twice as much coal as the US to get the same amount of energy.

Yeah, what a relief... That carbon cycle was almost a real threat..

Oct 19, 2014
"Since electrification also tends to lead to increased wealth and participation in the economy, it can also lead to additional increases in emissions from indirect energy use through consumption."
Sure, who needs an economy to pay for the 1/10 of a refrigerator in the house.

Oct 19, 2014
All of mankind's activities have little impact on something as large as the planetary climate.

Sorry lads, I look at mankind's total output of GHGs and I look at volcanic sources. Man's output isn't within the standard error of measure of all planetary sources of GHGs. <---Got that from Russell Seitz. Fellow of the Department of Physics at Harvard University

Oct 20, 2014
"Energy access is fundamental to development: it brings improvements to all aspects of life, including education, communication, and health,"

"Low-carbon energy sources bring improved health, efficiency, and can also bring benefits to the economy and employment. And if international climate policies are introduced later, more investment in low-carbon energy sources would mean that developing countries are not locked-in to fossil fuel power and higher costs in the future."

It sounds more and more like the global warming deniers are the stupidest most gullable people on earth.

Oct 20, 2014
India will improve its market penetration of solar technologies for small-scale grids.

Oct 20, 2014
All of mankind's activities have little impact on something as large as the planetary climate.

Sorry lads, I look at mankind's total output of GHGs and I look at volcanic sources. Man's output isn't within the standard error of measure of all planetary sources of GHGs. <---Got that from Russell Seitz. Fellow of the Department of Physics at Harvard University


Oh, yes, Sasquatch is to blame, sure.
And why do you care? This Global Warming has nothing to do with Obama, it's in India you know?

Oct 20, 2014
@EnricM,
Global warming -> Global.
He didnt say anything about Obama either in that post so all youre doing is stirring a hornets nest for no reason at all.
Not taking sides here so dont bother calling me a denialist or whatever happens to be the derogatory term of the day.

Oct 20, 2014
The Earth has been getting warmer or colder for 4,000,000,000 years.

Not at this rate. And life has a limited adaptability to rate of change.
That '4billion years' argument ignores everything we know about evolution. Change the environment radically enough and stuff dies.
(You employ this mechanism every day when you use soap).

Man is merely a brief observer, not the cause.

However man, for some odd reason, likes to stay alive.

Oct 22, 2014
"It sounds more and more like the global warming deniers are the stupidest most gullible people on earth." ~HowHot2

@HowHot2

Do you also support tracking down the deniers and giving them a chance to convert to Climatism and accept Al Gore as their savior or face beheading; or does your impersonation of the Catholic church's Inquisition stop with name calling and use of derogatory terms like 'Deniers'?

Oct 22, 2014
"It sounds more and more like the global warming deniers are the stupidest most gullible people on earth." ~HowHot2

@HowHot2

Do you also support tracking down the deniers and giving them a chance to convert to Climatism and accept Al Gore as their savior or face beheading; or does your impersonation of the Catholic church's Inquisition stop with name calling and use of derogatory terms like 'Deniers'?


Do you just bend over and take it from your climate denier masters, (one at a time), bow down and lick their feet clean before you submit, or after?

Again; it sounds more and more like the global warming deniers are the stupidest most gullible people on earth.

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