India leading emerging nations in race for universal energy access

India leading emerging nations in race for universal energy access

India is on course to achieving universal access to electricity and clean cooking facilities by the early 2020s, a decade ahead of other developing countries, the International Energy Agency has said, indicating global recognition for the Narendra Modi government’s energy programme.

“Developing countries in Asia are making significant progress. Many countries in the region are well on track to reach universal energy access by 2030, while India is on course to reach that goal by the early 2020s,” the International Energy Agency has said in its latest report, ‘Energy Access Outlook: from Poverty to Prosperity’.

“Just look at India, which has provided electricity access to half a billion people since 2000. The government’s tremendous efforts over the last several years have put it on track to achieving one of the biggest success stories ever in electrification,” an IEA statement on Wednesday quoted its executive director Fatih Birol as saying.

According to Birol, the process of providing access to clean and affordable energy is being accelerated by the “convergence of political will and cost reductions”. Globally, this has brought universal energy access by 2030 within reach.

“The cost-effective strategy for providing universal access to electricity and clean-cooking facilities in developing countries is compatible with meeting global climate goals and prevents millions of premature deaths each year. It would also benefit women the most, as it would free up billions of hours currently lost to gathering fuelwood,” says the report.

In the Indian context, the report’s positive results towards universal energy access are a reflection of the bristling pace set by the Modi government to electrify all villages and rural households through the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana and providing free connections to poor households through the Subhagya scheme announced recently, besides bringing clean cooking fuel to poor homes through the Ujjwala scheme.

These schemes, clearly targeted at improving the lives of India’s poor, are at the core of the Modi government’s development plank. Together, they also form a key element of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s political outreach plan by lighting up homes and rid poor women from the scourge of smoky ‘chulhas’

So far 14,670 villages, or 80% of the unelectrified villages, have been electrified in the two years since the electrification drive was launched. Only 2,791 inhabited villages, marking 15% of the target, remain to be electrified. With the rapid progress in village electrification, the government earlier this month announced the Saubhagya scheme envisaging free connections to poor households. The Ujjwala scheme too has reached over 3 crore poor homes since it was launched in May 2016 against a target of 5 crore homes set for 2019.

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